sports 3 days ago

Wild beat Blackhawks for first win of season

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) — By Rachel Blount Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Oct. 12-- CHICAGO-With both Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund injured, the Wild had only 11 forwards in the lineup for Thursday's game at Chicago. It marked the second consecutive game they had been shorthanded, but coach Bruce Boudreau considered it pointless to dwell on it.

"We don't mention it, because somebody's got to step up and do the job," he said. "If you sit there and pull the 'woe is me' thing, then you're always getting your built-in excuse for failure. We're a group that doesn't ever want to have that particular thought."

The Wild's manpower deficit grew more acute in the third period of a 5-2 victory at United Center. One by one, Nino Niederreiter, Marcus Foligno and Charlie Coyle were hurt and did not return, leaving a skeleton crew to finish. But two Wild goals midway through the third period gave the team its first victory of the season.

Eric Staal put the Wild ahead 1-0 with 32 seconds remaining in the second period. After Chicago tied it at 8:21 of the third on Ryan Hartman's rebound goal, the Wild scored twice to take control. Chris Stewart finished off a two-on-one that survived a coach's challenge, and when the Wild got a power play because of Chicago's failed challenge, Jason Zucker's goal gave it a 3-1 lead.

Rather than worry about their missing teammates, Boudreau wanted his players to concentrate on the game plan. Chicago had outscored opponents 11-1 in first periods through its first four games, and the Wild-coming off a four-day break from competition-would have to match the Blackhawks' speed and intensity from the start.

The team's aim, center Mikko Koivu said, was to get pucks deep and be assertive on the forecheck throughout the game. The Wild succeeded in that regard in the first period, and also showed they learned something during three days of practice. The anemic defense of the first two games gave way to a tighter, more unified effort, preventing odd-man rushes and allowing the Blackhawks few scoring chances.

Marcus Foligno set the tone by blasting Brent Seabrook early in the game, flipping the defenseman upside down into the Chicago bench. The Wild were tenacious, fighting for pucks and getting plenty of time in the Blackhawks' zone, and they outshot Chicago 8-6 in a scoreless first period.

A quick penalty on Staal forced the Wild to kill a penalty early in the second period, but an excellent kill kept it 0-0. Both goaltenders came up with some stellar saves in the period, as did Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Midway through the period, Dubnyk blocked a Duncan Keith shot from the left circle, and the puck bounced to Richard Panik on the backdoor-but Spurgeon swatted away Panik's shot to bail out the Wild.

With about six minutes left in the period, the Wild got trapped on the ice on an excruciatingly long shift. Chicago battered Dubnyk with six shots as his weary teammates could not get the puck out of their zone. But Dubnyk withstood the barrage, and Staal ended a frantic sequence with a goal in the last minute.

Just after Crawford stopped a wrist shot by Staal, both teams played hot-potato with the puck in the neutral zone, and Chicago's Gustav Forsling ended it when his pass was intercepted by Coyle. With Staal breaking to the left side of the net-and eluding defenseman Jan Rutta-Coyle delivered the puck to Staal, whose shot nicked Crawford's right side and slipped under his arm.


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