Blackhawks notch key win over Wild
CHICAGO — In the midst of a tightly contested playoff race, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford knew he had to be at his best against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon.
"It's like a four-point game," Crawford said. "That's a big win. It's good for our confidence and momentum."
Crawford made a season-high 42 saves and the Blackhawks held on for a 4-2 win over their division rivals. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin each finished with a goal and an assist.
Chicago (43-20-5) pulled within one point of Minnesota for the top spot in the Central Division and Western Conference. The game marked the final meeting of the regular season between the teams.
Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, which finished with a 44-22 advantage in shots on goal. Minnesota (43-18-6) lost for the fourth time in the past six games.
"We had a ton of shots, good scoring chances," said Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who was one of 13 players with at least two shots on goal. "It's just a little frustrating that we couldn't come up with the goals."
Crawford played a big role in Minnesota's frustration. The Blackhawks' netminder denied several high-quality scoring changes by the Wild, including a breakaway by Erik Haula in the third period.
"I've just got to bury that," said Haula, who could have evened the score at 3 with a goal on his breakaway attempt. "We should be in overtime right now."
Crawford said he did not mind the heavy workload.
"That's a fun game," Crawford said. "It's always fun to play in those games that are fast-paced and the crowd is into it. Those are way more fun than if it's kind of chippy and nothing is going on."
The fast-paced game featured a quick exit for Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk. After he allowed two goals on the first two shots he saw, Dubnyk was removed from the game by coach Bruce Boudreau.
"You follow a goalie for 68 games, you sort of know his traits and his trends," Boudreau said. "He didn't look like he was following the puck well, for wont of a better term."
Dubnyk said he would have preferred to stay in the game.
"I always want to stay in and want to battle, but that's completely up to him to decide what he wants to do," said Dubnyk, who remained one victory shy of setting a career high for wins in a season. "If he didn't think I was ready or he wants a spark, whatever it is, he's the coach. My job is just to be ready to stay in there and battle if I need to."
Backup netminder Darcy Kuemper turned aside 18 of 20 shots in relief for the Wild.
Kane opened the scoring 51 seconds into the first period. He ripped a wrist shot from the low slot for his 30th goal of the season and his 10th in the past eight games.
"I don't think you ever want to put a number in your mind (for goals in a season), but it's nice to reach those milestones, whether it's 20 or 30, and after that you try and get as high as you can," Kane said. "The goal is to play the right way, keep creating scoring chances, and hopefully by the end of the year the numbers are there."
Less than four minutes later, Chicago increased its lead to 2-0 on a one-timer by Panarin. Kane slid a backhand pass to Panarin to set up the goal.
Minnesota cut the deficit to 2-1 with 9:30 remaining in the first period. Defenseman Marco Scandella fired a shot from the blue line and Staal tapped the rebound beneath Crawford's pads for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Blackhawks made it 3-1 on Trevor van Riemsdyk's fifth goal of the season with 14:32 to go in the second period.
Granlund fired a pinpoint wrist shot to pull the Wild within 3-2 in the first minute of the third period.
Marian Hossa finished the scoring on a breakaway with 6:18 remaining in the third period.