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Patrick Kane, Collin Delia lead surging Blackhawks past Wild 5-2

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane felt like a new man when he hit the ice Thursday. It was only three days off, but the Christmas break energized a team that badly needed it.

Kane came out flying with a hat trick in a 5-2 victory over the visiting Wild in a game in which the Hawks were uncharacteristically dominant. They chased the Wild’s goalie four minutes into the second period, led by two or more the entire third period and got exceptional goaltending.

It felt like old times at the United Center.

For both teams.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXA111

The Hawks, who drummed the Wild out of the playoffs three consecutive years during their championship era, rolled to their most comfortable win since October. The home stretch was so carefree, for once, that Artem Anisimov banked one off the boards trying to set up Kane rather than take the empty-net shot himself.

That maneuver didn’t work, but Kane got it a minute later. Dylan Strome intercepted the puck and passed it across to him at the blue line. He flicked it in from there, and the hats rained onto the ice.

“It’s fun,” Kane said. “It’s always nice to produce.”

The empty-netter was his 20th goal of the season, a mark he has hit in 12 consecutive seasons.

Kane laughed about the lightheartedness at the end — “It was a different situation for sure,” he said — and joked about him and Brandon Saad both hunting for their third goal in the final minutes. Saad’s second one essentially ended the game by putting the Hawks up 4-1 with eight minutes left.

It was Kane’s first hat trick of the year and the first for the team since Jonathan Toews got one in October.

The Hawks wouldn’t have enjoyed the luxury of being so playful late in the game if not for Collin Delia cleaning up despite the Wild outshooting the Hawks 48-20. He was exceptional in his second start at goalie, making a compelling case to keep the job.

He made 46 saves, and his only misses were when Zach Parise punched one through amid a scrum  at the net and Eric Staal scored an inconsequential one in the final minute when the Wild had an extra skater. It was a strong follow-up to stopping 35 of 36 shots against the Avalanche last weekend.

Delia had little to say about his success other than it’s affirmation that he can hack it in the NHL. He’s equally skilled at deflecting pucks and praise.

He might consider hiring Kane as his hype man.

“Delia was unreal in net and really held the fort for us,” Kane said. “He’s been unbelievable. What’d he have, 46 saves tonight? Just talking to him, he seemed like he was following the puck really well and reading where their shots were going. Obviously that gives us a lot of confidence when he’s playing like that.”

There’s confidence all around, and the Hawks craved a night like this after falling flat against the Panthers on Sunday. They won for the fourth time in five games and are 5-2-1 over the last two weeks.

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It was easy to overreact to the Florida game — same old slop, same old hapless Hawks — and wonder whether the mini-run was a fluke. Even coach Jeremy Colliton seemed down on his team that night, but his thinking tilted as he watched the film.

It was the players’ eighth game in 13 days, and their fatigue showed. If that’s all it was, the break was the cure. The Hawks weren’t perfect against the Wild, but they went back to the aggressive, scrappy style that got them going after an eight-game skid this month.

“Very timely to get those three days off,” Colliton said. “This was an extremely heavy stretch of not just games, but travel and toughness of opposition, so it was good to get the days off.”