As the Western Conference playoff race heats up, the Blackhawks suffered a tough shootout loss in Minnesota.
By virtue of Detroit losing in regulation and the Hawks picking up one point on Thursday night, a win by the Blackhawks on Saturday would bump make things interesting in the Western Conference playoff picture. Nashville beat Dallas in regulation on Thursday night and is now out of the Hawks’ reach with 102 points.
Jamal Mayers scored in the middle of the first period off a pretty feed from Michael Frolik. Just under seven minutes later, Mayers was head butted by Nate Prosser, who received a major penalty and was ejected from the game for the act.
The Hawks appeared to add a second goal 11 minutes into the third, but it was determined that Bryan Bickell’s stick was too high on the redirect.
Chicago’s defensive play was excellent again, aided by the return of Duncan Keith after his five-game suspension. The Wild were held to only three shots on net in the first 20 minutes, and had 22 in regulation.
Bickell took a bad penalty with under four minutes left in the game, and the Wild took advantage with a tying goal. It was a shame, too, because Corey Crawford had played outstanding hockey all night and had certainly done enough to earn a regulation win, if not a shutout bid. Both teams managed just one shot each in the overtime period.
Devin Setoguchi scored the only goal of the shootout to earn Minnesota the second point (which is meaningless for the Wild).
Marcus Kruger continued his confident play, winning 11 of 14 faceoffs in addition to one blocked shot and one takeaway. Rookie Brandon Bollig led the Hawks with four hits in only 7:29 of ice time.
Andrew Brunette and Dave Bolland joined the list of injured Hawks, replaced in the lineup by Jimmy Hayes and Brendan Morrison. Morrison played his best game since being acquired by the Blackhawks; in 13:30 he was credited with one hit and one takeaway.
Chicago and Detroit will do battle on Saturday afternoon with a great deal on the line.