ST. PAUL, Minn. – For the first time this season, there wasn’t a boisterous celebration in the Blackhawks’ postgame dressing room.
The festive atmosphere was gone after the Hawks had their season-opening six-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Matt Cullen and Zach Parise scored in the shootout for the Wild, against only Jonathan Toews for the Hawks.
Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck scored in regulation, and Niklas Backstrom earned the victory in goal in relief of Josh Harding for the Wild, playing the second of back-to-back games.
Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored for the Hawks, but it wasn’t enough as Corey Crawford suffered the defeat in the first of a six-game trip.
“We still feel that there are a lot of things we can do better, and if we do them, we might be able to distance ourselves in a game like that,” Toews said. “We started a little bit slow again, and midway through the second and probably in the third, we had more shots on net and dictated more of the play.”
After the Wild struck early in the opening period on Cullen’s goal, the Hawks answered quickly when Shaw and Toews scored 1 minute, 31 seconds apart a few minutes later. First, Shaw rushed the net and took a pass from Bryan Bickell and stuffed it past Harding to tie it.
Toews put the Hawks ahead when the captain snapped a quick shot from the left dot that eluded Harding. Wild coach Mike Yeo had seen enough and yanked Harding, who proceeded to take out his frustration on his goalie stick in the tunnel leading to the dressing room.
The Hawks’ penalty kill has been outstanding all season, and it was at its best during a sequence late in the first when Viktor Stalberg and Michael Frolik were sent to the box and the Wild had a two-man advantage for 1:23. With Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger on the ice the entire time, the Wild failed to score on three shots. One of them was Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s attempt from outside the left post toward an open net that Crawford got a shoulder on after launching himself through the crease.
The Hawks rode the momentum into the intermission, but it was short-lived as Clutterbuck redirected a long shot by Tom Gilbert in the opening minute of the second.
The Wild had another power play thwarted by Hawks penalty killers in the final two minutes of the game when Patrick Sharp was sent off.
With the NHL season now in its second full week and the Hawks having embarked on their six-game trip, the rust accumulated during the lockout has been shed and players are settling into their roles.
“You’re going to learn a lot about your team as the season goes on,” Sharp said. “A fast start to the season with the six games in 9 days [and] not a whole lot of time in Chicago I think speaks more to our individual players’ conditioning and our preparation for the season.”