Wild make statement with comeback victory over Blackhawks
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
The Blackhawks have a simmering feud with the Nashville Predators. They genuinely dislike the St. Louis Blues. They really hated the Vancouver Canucks. And even the mention of the Detroit Red Wings seems to make coach Joel Quenneville’s mustache twitch involuntarily.
But despite consecutive playoff meetings, despite geography, despite the hockey history between the two cities, and despite the NHL’s emphasis on divisional play, there just isn’t much heat to the Hawks’ series with the Minnesota Wild. Calling it a rivalry isn’t even fair, especially with the Hawks bouncing the Wild from the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The Wild certainly think of the Hawks as the team to beat, but the Hawks — and their fans — don’t seem to think of the Wild much at all.
“I would say if you asked Minnesota people, they would probably say Chicago is one of their rivals,” Quenneville said. “But you’ve got a point there. I still think there’s a lot of respect, both teams.”
The Hawks might not hate the Wild, but they have little choice but to respect them. Minnesota rallied for a 3-2 victory on Sunday night, taking over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference in the first meeting of the year between the teams. The Wild are a preposterous 17-1-1 in their last 19 games and have beaten the Hawks in eight consecutive regular-season meetings (the Hawks, of course, have won all three playoff series).
“To beat this team eight times in a row is really something,” said first-year Wild coach Bruce -Boudreau, whose Ducks ran afoul of the Hawks in the 2015 conference final. “I don’t understand how you could do it. I wish I would have had that knowledge a couple years ago. [But] it’s a new year. And it’s just one in a row right now.”
For the Hawks, a hard-fought loss against a red-hot team was a big step up from Friday’s -disastrous 6-0 loss to another red-hot team, the Washington Capitals. But it didn’t ease the frustration much.
“Two good hockey teams — both of them are playing really well at this time of year,” Patrick Kane said. “Good way for us to judge ourselves, where we’re at. It might be a bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are.”
Kane — who was everywhere all night, double-shifting on the fourth line with the Hawks dressing seven defensemen and posting a career-high 12 shots on goal in 27 minutes of ice time — staked the Hawks to a 2-0 lead with a goal early in the first and another early in the second.
But the Wild didn’t get to the top of the standings by accident. Nino Niederreiter (on a power play) and Chris Stewart scored five minutes apart in the second to tie it 2-2. Then, 5:08 into the third period, Marco Scandella’s shot from the point took a big carom off the end boards and bounced right to Jason Pominville on the far side for an easy goal and a 3-2 Minnesota lead.
Quenneville fumed about the first two goals, but blamed his -defensemen, not his goalie.
“I can say I didn’t like the third goal, as well,” he said. “But the -other two were like cardinal sins.”
Then Wild did what the Wild do, which is turn a wide-open game into a defensive slog, holding the Hawks to a mere five shots on goal in the third period. Devan Dubnyk finished with 33 saves.
So it might not be much of a -rivalry, but it’s sure as heck become a fair fight.
“We have to find a way to stop the run,” Quenneville said of the eight-game regular-season streak. “Tonight, we had the greatest -opportunity you’d have. We have to wait again. We’re aware they’ve put us in a tough spot.”
Follow me on Twitter