The Blackhawks’ perfect season came to an end last night with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. With the shootout tied at 1-1, Matt Cullen’s goal in the third round would turn out to be the game winner.
After trailing 1-0 early in the first period, it looked as if the Blackhawks were going to run away with another victory after they responded with two back-to-back goals of their own to go ahead 2-1.
The Blackhawks’ first goal came at 5:14 of the first period from 21-year-old forward Andrew Shaw. Bryan Bickell drove to the front of the net and appeared to lose the puck, but Shaw was there to pick up and buried a wrist shot past the stick side of Wild netminder Josh Harding. The goal was Shaw’s first of the season.
The Blackhawks struck again less than two minutes later, when Jonathan Toews came streaking down the left wing and snuck a wrist shot through the legs Harding. The goal was Toews’ fourth of the season. Marian Hossa (9 points in 7 games) was credited with an assist.
After allowing two goals on four shots, the second of which could be classified as soft, Minnesota’s Harding was pulled from the game and replaced by Niklas Backstrom. Harding expressed his frustration by swinging his stick against the wall as he headed towards the locker room in disgust.
Although the Blackhawks looked to be the better team, out shooting the Wild 19 to 6 in the second and third period, the Wild were able to tie the game at 2-2 early in the second period. Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck pulled off a text book redirect off a shot from the point by Tom Gilbert. Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford had no chance at all to make a save.
The rest of regulation and the overtime period would remain scoreless; however, no game summary can be complete without mentioning the excellent play of the Blackhawks’ penalty killers. The PK corps killed off a key 5-on-3 in the first period and a 5-on-4 with 2:05 to play in the third period. Overall, they were 4-for-4 on the night.
With the game score tied at 2-2, the teams entered into a shootout. Jonathan Toews converted on his chance in the first round; however, the Wild responded with goals from Zach Parise (first round) and Matt Cullen (third round). With a chance to tie the shootout, Patrick Sharp beat Backstrom, but sent a shot off the cross-bar, ending the game with a score of 3-2 and a victory for the Wild.
Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford faced 22 shots and made 20 saves. His season record is now 5-0-1, with a save percentage of .931 (8th in the NHL) and a GAA of 1.79 (8th in the NHL).
In relief, Niklas Backstrom faced 25 shots and made 25 saves, earning him first star of the game honors.
The Blackhawks managed to keep the Wild’s new additions, Zach Parise and Ryan Sutter, off the official score sheet, although Parise did score in the first round of the shootout.
Blackhawks’ prospect, Brandon Saad, who replaced the injured Daniel Carcillo (lower body) on the first line earlier this season, still has not registered a point in six games.
The Blackhawks’ continue their road trip when they head to Vancouver to take on their bitter rival, the Canucks on Friday, February 1st . Puck drop is at 9:00 CST.
Chris Paxhia covers hockey in Chicago for snaptwig.com. You can follow him on Twitter at: @ChrisPaxhia25 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.