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Updated: December 14th, 2011 10:33pm
Wild rally to tie twice, but fall in a shootout to Blackhawks

Wild rally to tie twice, but fall in a shootout to Blackhawks

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When does a loss feel like a win? On this particular night, for the Minnesota Wild, it did.

Trailing 2-0 in the second period of an emotional game, and getting out-shot by the scary-good Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild twice rallied to forge a tie before falling 4-3 in at shootout. But the extra-session loss gave them one point, allowing the Wild to stay two points ahead of Chicago atop the Western Conference standings.

Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen and Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild, who could not manage to get a shot past Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery in the shootout. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom in the shootout, giving Chicago the win.

But that's not how it felt for the Wild.

"There's a lot of things I really liked about this game," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "It sucks that we don't get two points, but this is a win for me. As far as I'm concerned, that's a win for our guys."

The skinny

For 20 minutes, the Wild looked every bit like a team that was spent from the night before. While the team was battling the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-1 loss on the road, then flying home, their opponents had been resting in a St. Paul hotel, and it showed for 20 minutes. The Blackhawks out-shot the Wild 11-2 in the first period, and later took a 2-0 lead, on a night where it started to look like the Wild had little to nothing left in the tank.

But in what may be a sign that things are truly different this year, the wild kept battling. They did not hold a lead at any point, but refused to fold versus the offensively gifted Chicago lineup (which features Kane and Toews on the top line, and equally scary Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp on line two).

Toews, named the game's first star, looked at the game as one of frustration, saying that the Wild's defensive ways kept the Chicago offense from showing its true ability, and Blackhawks mistakes allowed the Wild to stay in the game.

"It was a pretty defensive game if you ask me," said Toews, the former North Dakota star. "Some of the scoring chances they got in the second were just mistakes that we need to get rid of."

The big crowd was quiet at first, giving a hearty Bronx Cheer with just a few minutes left in the first period when the Wild finally got their first shot on goal. By the end, with the teams trading shots in a frantic overtime, it was clear that the one-time rivalry between Minnesota and Chicago that raged for much of the '70s and '80s between Chicago Stadium and Met Center, may be re-igniting at Xcel Energy Center and the United Center.

"There's some rivalry there. Looking forward to that," Yeo said with a chuckle, alluding to back-to-back nights where the wild played intense games versus their two nearest neighbors, geographically. "I think we don't like that team that we played tonight and I think that they probably don't like us. And I also think that we probably don't like the team that we played the night before. Haven't found too many teams that we like yet."

Turning point

Koivu was whistled for tripping in the second period, giving the Blackhawks their first power play. Shortly thereafter, Cullen got a breakaway, but went down and didn't get a shot off when Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith swooped in from behind. With the sellout crowd in full throat, yelling for a call, Cullen banged his stick against the boards once or twice, and was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Blackhawks scored a power play goal not long after, taking a 1-0 lead, and scored again in quick succession to double their advantage. But the Wild refused to fold, and got a pair of goals before the end of the second to tie the game.

"In a situation like that it would be easy to just write it off and start thinking about the next one," Brodziak said. "Great job by the guys in the room of sticking with it. We got a valuable point out of it."

Numbers game

• 2-0-2: The Wild's record in the second half of back-to-back games this season.
• 4-2: The Wild's record in shootouts.
• 4: Goals in the last five games for Koivu, who has recorded at least a point in 13 of the last 14 games.
• 19,254: Attendance on Wednesday, which was the Wild's largest home crowd of the season, and sixth-largest in franchise history.

Health watch

Marek Zidlicky returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing a month (13 games) with a concussion. To make room for him, Nate prosser was sent back to Houston. The Wild also called up Warren Peters from the Aeros, and placed goalie Josh Harding on the injured reserve list. Pierre-Marc Bouchard was in the pressbox in a nice suit on Wednesday, after suffering a broken nose and a cut lip late in Tuesday's loss in Winnipeg. He is likely to play in the Wild's next game. Guillaume Latendresse, who had returned to the lineup one night earlier and had scored the team's lone goal versus the Jets, played seven minutes in the first period on Wednesday but left the game and didn't return. Yeo said that Latendresse is still dealing with post-concussion effects, after missing 15 games earlier in the season.

Summary

First period
No scoring

Second period
Blackhawks - Marian Hossa 13 (Toews, Sharp), 9:19, PPG
Blackhawks - Michael Frolik 5 (Kruger, Mayers), 10:48
Wild - Kyle Brodziak 11 (Johnson), 13:10
Wild - Matt Cullen 9 (Clutterbuck, Peters), 15:41

Third period
Blackhawks - Jonathan Toews 18 (Stalberg), 6:54
Wild - Mikko Koivu 8 (Clutterbuck, Stoner), 14:56

Overtime
No scoring

Shootout
Wild - Matt Cullen - O, Dany Heatley - O
Blackhawks - Jonathan Toews - X, Patrick Kane - X

Shots: Wild 2-10-16-2-30; Blackhawks 11-10-7-3-31. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (28-31); Blackhawks, Ray Emery (27-30). Power plays: Wild 0-for-2, Blackhawks 1-2.

Three stars
1. Jonathan Toews
2. Cal Clutterbuck
3. Mikko Koivu

Coming up

After a long road trip and back-to-back games, on the road and at home, the Wild have a few days of much-needed rest coming before they face the sub-par New York Islanders (currently 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference) on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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