Patrick Kane's goal in the second round of a shootout clinched the Chicago Blackhawks' fifth straight victory on the road, 4-3 over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Toews also scored in the shootout after giving Chicago a lead with a goal in the third period that Mikko Koivu matched a few minutes later.
Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with second-period goals 89 seconds apart, but Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen answered for the Wild later in the period to tie the game.
The Wild lead the NHL with 44 points. The Blackhawks, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games, have 42.
After a frenetic overtime period, with plenty of prime opportunities for each side during the 4-on-4 portion of the game, the stage was set for the shootout. Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery denied Cullen, and Dany Heatley lost the puck on his try for the Wild.
With the score by Toews already on the board, Kane raced toward goalie Niklas Backstrom, slowed to almost a dead stop and made a slick right-left move to get Backstrom to commit. Kane then slammed the puck into the open net.
Toews skated out from behind the net past defenseman Mike Lundin, put a move on his partner, Nick Schultz, to square himself with the net and zipped a shot past Backstrom's stick to give the Blackhawks the lead back with 13:06 left.
The Wild had their second power play of the game about a minute later, but they couldn't generate any good scoring chances. Koivu's shot from the slot slipped past Emery, though, to make it 3-all with 5:04 remaining.
The Blackhawks kept Backstrom busy in the closing minutes, but he didn't budge and the two teams ended regulation tied at 28 shots apiece — a remarkable accomplishment for the Wild considering they went 17 minutes into the game without a shot and trailed 21-12 at the second intermission.
The crowd was announced at 19,254, the largest of the season at Xcel Energy Center and the sixth-biggest regular-season gathering in the Wild's 11-year history, but it didn't have much to cheer until Brad Staubitz took down Daniel Carcillo in a mid-ice fight early in the second period.
The Wild fell behind 2-0 before they could score, but the fans were into the action all through that period, a playoff-like intensity sure to continue when these teams are put in the same eight-team conference next season under the NHL's realignment plan. The Blackhawks were arguably the biggest rival of the old Minnesota North Stars before they moved to Dallas, and the Wild were eager to revive their regional rivalries with realignment.
The crowd howled when Cullen fell down on a short-handed breakaway when his and Duncan Keith's skates collided without a call. Fans complained even louder when Cullen was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Wild killed the first penalty, but not the second one when Hossa scored while falling forward after snatching a puck in front of the crease. Frolik, the fourth-line right wing, added to the lead after a slick drop pass by rookie Marcus Kruger set up his fifth goal of the season.
Brodziak scored his team-high 11th goal — the Blackhawks wanted an icing call they didn't get right before it — with a wrist shot he slipped past Emery. Cullen then scored on a 2-on-1, ending his 12-game goal drought. He was too sick to play at Winnipeg the night before in a 2-1 loss that ended Minnesota's seven-game winning streak.
The Wild are having trouble staying healthy. Left wing Guillaume Latendresse returned from a 15-game absence because of a concussion and scored against Winnipeg, but he didn't play after the first period in this game. The team gave no update on his condition.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky came off injured reserve after missing 13 games with a concussion and saw substantial playing time, but right wing Pierre-Marc Bouchard was missing after sustaining a face-first hit into the boards against the Jets that left him bleeding badly from his nose. Right wing Devin Setoguchi missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury.
Warren Peters was recalled from the team's AHL affiliate in Houston to join the fourth line, and Darroll Powe moved up to play with Koivu and Heatley on the first line.