The last time the Blackhawks were in St. Paul, Jonathan Toews had himself a game. Chicago’s captain had one goal and two assists as the Blackhawks overcame questionable officiating to beat the Wild 4-3 in overtime.
Three point night? Nice. But Toews had more in store for the Wild on Tuesday.
It didn’t take long for the Wild to take this week’s Central Division rivalry game to a playoff level.
Right off the opening faceoff, Minnesota immediately got into the offensive zone. Trevor van Riemsdyk was able to break up the play before a shot could be put on net, but the intensity was clear right out of the gate.
From there, the shots favored the Hawks but the play showed the Wild having better scoring chances. Corey Crawford and Devan Dubnyk were on point in the opening period as the two teams combined to put 29 shots on net; Chicago was credited with 15 to Minnesota’s 14.
In the second period, Toews reminded the Western Conference that – when he’s healthy and has two consistent, productive linemates – he is a very scary proposition.
Less than one minute into the second period, Toews imposed his will on the game and opened the scoring. Chicago’s captain won a board battle, got the puck out to a shooter and planted himself in front of the net. From there, he jammed home his 13th goal of the year to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
At 3:08, Niklas Hjalmarsson went to the box for hooking and Minnesota converted. Well, Duncan Keith nearly converted as he almost tipped a rebound through Crawford. Crawford stopped the initial shot and Keith’s rebound, but wasn’t able to keep a Mikael Granlund poke out of the net. At 4:20 into the second, the game was tied.
But Toews wasn’t having it. On his next shift, he created another goal by simply refusing to lose. This time, Richard Panik was on the scoring end.
The Hawks held a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes, but the stories were the performances of Toews and Dubnyk. Minnesota’s netminder was absolutely superb against 28 shots in the first two periods, keeping the Wild in the game in the face of a furious second period from Chicago’s offensive attack. The Blackhawks out-shot the Wild 13-15 in the second period.
After generating a goal in the first minute of the second period, Toews was right back at it to open the third.
Chicago’s captain won an offensive zone faceoff and Nick Schmaltz unloaded from the point for his fifth of the season. The Blackhawks led 3-1, and each member of the Toews line had a goal 33 seconds into the third period.
After a couple more strong shifts from the Toews line, Minnesota brought it. Chicago failed to score on a power play and the Wild carried the momentum of the kill into a couple good scoring opportunities. At 6:41, Zach Parise redirected a Marco Scandella shot past Crawford to cut the Blackhawks lead to 3-2.
Jonathan Toews wasn’t done, though.
This time, however, it was Schmaltz making a pretty play to set up the Captain for his second goal and fourth point of the game.
Tanner Kero went to the box just under 13 minutes into the third and Minnesota once again took advantage. Crawford made a couple fantastic saves but couldn’t settle the puck down and Granlund scored his second power play goal of the night to draw the Wild back to within one with less than seven minutes left in regulation.
The two teams traded terrific chances over the next five minutes until a desperate Wild team pulled Dubnyk for an extra attacker. The Wild kept the pressure on but a loose puck found Toews about 10 feet in front of Crawford and the Hawks’ captain calmly flipped the puck the length of the ice into the empty net.
In another big time game in Minnesota against the first place Wild, Toews had a hat trick in a five-point night. Schmaltz had a three-point night (one goal, two assists) and Panik added an assist to his goal as that line produced all of the offense for the Blackhawks.
Toews now has eight points in his last two games in Minnesota.
For Minnesota, Dubnyk played much better than a 5-3 final score would indicate. He stopped 34 of 38 in the game to keep his teammates in the game. In the win, Crawford made 29 saves against 32 shots. Niklas Hjalmarsson led Chicago with four blocked shots.
Toews, Schmaltz and Panik combined to put 15 shots on net in the game (five each). Patrick Kane’s six led the Hawks. The chemistry of that line is:
And Coach Q wins his 400th game with the #Blackhawks!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 22, 2017