Blackhawks unable to contain Wild’s Mats Zuccarello in yet another loss

Zuccarello, whom the Hawks kept in check in their first matchup against the Wild this year, exploded for a hat trick Friday in a 4-1 Wild win.

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Jack Johnson pushes Mats Zuccarello into Petr Mrazek.

Mats Zuccarello didn’t score here, but did score three other times in the Wild’s win over the Blackhawks.

David Berding/Getty Images

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Blackhawks did a good job of suppressing Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello in their first meeting with the Wild this season.

They didn’t do quite as well in the second meeting Friday night.

Zuccarello finished with a hat trick and Kaprizov added the Wild’s other goal in a 4-1 win, extending the Hawks’ misery into yet another weekend.

“They were really good tonight,” Hawks coach Luke Richardson said. “We didn’t kill plays in our ‘D’-zone early, and that just fuels their game. They really get moving in there. I’m sure they probably weren’t happy with their last game against us, either, so they were top-notch today.”

Before the game, Richardson showed his players video clips demonstrating how well they defended the two Wild stars on Oct. 30. The Hawks lasted to a shootout that night and created five of their eight scoring chances when Zuccarello and Kaprizov were together during five-on-five ice time.

Containing them again proved nearly impossible. Wild coach Dean Evason, using the advantage of second change at home, was able to regularly match up his first line (Zuccarello and Kaprizov, centered by Sam Steel) against the Hawks’ first line (Patrick Kane and Sam Lafferty, centered by Max Domi) and exploit their defensive weaknesses.

The Wild generated 13 of their 17 total scoring chances during Zuccarello and Kaprizov’s five-on-five ice time. The passing on their most dangerous shifts was crisp and quick, to the point of being almost unstoppable.

Zuccarello, who added an assist to finish with four points, easily could have had four goals if not for a ridiculous, reaching-back paddle save by Hawks goalie Petr Mrazek in the second period.

“It’s desperation,” Mrazek said. “It’s a lucky save. I saw they had an empty net [and] I didn’t have anything else to help get there, so I was just trying to focus on the release and put the stick there.”

Mrazek officially recorded only 18 saves, but most were impressive stops against high-danger chances. It was one of his best games as a Hawk.

Unfortunately for him, the Hawks “just don’t have enough” clicking right now, according to Richardson, to give either of their goalies the support they need. They have scored just six goals over their last six games.

“Obviously, we’re going through it right now, and we all recognize that,” Domi said. “But we’re not going to quit. We’re not going to stand down. We just have to find a way to just get one [win] here and build on that.”

Johnson, Vlasic injured

Tyler Johnson’s comeback from his ankle injury lasted only two games. The veteran forward reaggravated the ankle Thursday against the Golden Knights, missing the third period, and didn’t play Friday. Reese Johnson moved back into the lineup, and Seth Jones moved back to the top power-play unit, marking a quick end to the Hawks’ five-forward approach.

There’s hope that Johnson could try to return soon, but Richardson cautioned that the Hawks “want to let it settle down.”

Meanwhile, in Rockford, Hawks prospect defenseman Alex Vlasic, who had looked as NHL-ready as expected in his first 21 AHL appearances with the IceHogs, will miss six weeks with a fractured right fibula.

Filip Roos, who scored in his first career AHL game Tuesday after being sent down, should be able to help compensate for Vlasic’s absence.

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