The newly configured second line lit up the scoreboard as both Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad picked up goals as the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Minnesota Wild by a 5-1 margin on Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
Sheldon Brookbank, Nick Leddy, and Patrick Sharp also added tallies as the Hawks got some sweet revenge after a lackluster effort in the teams' previous meeting on Saturday.
The Hawks got off to a great start early in the game, as the first line and fourth line had back-to-back solid shifts. They gained possession early and often, and even though they couldn’t quite get any shots going in on goal, they did prevent the Wild from getting off on the right foot offensively, and set the tone early on.
The Hawks also were getting some great-back checking from their forward lines in the early stages of the game, with the third line being especially potent in that area. Jeremy Morin and Andrew Shaw were both throwing their weight around on some bone-rattling hits, but the ability to force the Wild forwards off the puck didn’t translate into a shots-advantage for Chicago, and the Wild continued to get into the offensive zone often.
Fortunately for Chicago, Crawford was more than up to the task in the early going, keeping the Wild at bay and keeping Chicago in the game in the process. That effectiveness by the Hawks’ goaltender allowed the team to really go for the gusto offensively, and they were rewarded after Marian Hossa won a puck battle behind the Wild net and fired a perfect pass to Sharp, who deked the puck to the netmouth and fired home a shot before Niklas Backstrom could even respond, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead after one period.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, Duncan Keith was having a rough go of it early on, including one puck that deflected off of him and nearly evaded Crawford in the first period. In the second period, that stretch continued for the Hawks’ primary defenseman, as he attempted to steal a puck at center ice. When he failed to do so, the Wild skated in uncontested, and Jason Pominville fired a gorgeous shot over Crawford’s glove to tie the game at 1-1.
The Hawks seemed to be energized after coughing up the lead, and they capitalized on some lackluster play from Backstrom later in the period. After Leddy made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and fired a shot that deflected off of Brandon Pirri, Kane collected the puck behind the net and found Brookbank wide open in the slot, and the Hawks’ defenseman didn’t miss in giving Chicago a 2-1 lead. The play was all set up by Backstrom’s inability to get up in his crease after stopping the initial shot by Pirri, and the Hawks made him pay.
They did that again just a few minutes later, as Leddy snared a puck on the power play and took advantage of a great screen by Andrew Shaw to score his first goal against the team that drafted him in 2009, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead after two periods.
The third period was once again marked by the Hawks taking advantage of opportunities, as well as denying Minnesota a chance to climb back into the game. On a great move at center ice, Saad shed a Wild defender and made his way in towards Backstrom. When the Minnesota goalie committed to Saad’s side of the net, the 21-year old forward floated a nifty pass right onto Kane’s stick, who put the puck into the wide open cage to give Chicago the 4-1 lead.
Saad wasn’t done yet either. On a 4-on-4 later in the period, the kid took advantage of a breakdown in the Wild defense and skated right between the circles and deked Backstrom out of his pads to give Chicago a 5-1 lead with 11 minutes left in the contest.
The Hawks will wrap up their stretch of three games in four nights when they host the Ottawa Senators at the United Center Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 7pm.