The Blackhawks erased a two-goal deficit after 38 lifeless minutes, but their special teams once again failed as the Wild earned a 4-3 victory in Minnesota on Thursday night.
Chicago was short-handed three times in the game, allowing two goals including the game-tying goal late in the third period. Minnesota scored 41 and 43 seconds into two of their power plays, continuing an increasingly disturbing trend of mediocre special teams being the Blackhawks’ Achilles heel.
Joakim Nordstrom was recalled in place of Brandon Pirri, and the hope was that he could step into the penalty kill unit again. But he had a rough night, winning only one of five faceoffs and skating only 13 shifts. He struggled to handle the puck and clear the zone throughout the night, which will only raise more questions about what Pirri has to do to stick with the NHL club.
Jeremy Morin, also recalled before the game, spent 1:03 of his 8:17 on the ice on power play duty. A Patrick Kane shot that was redirected by Nordstrom found Morin in front of the net for his first goal of the season and the Hawks’ first of the night late in the second period.
Morin’s goal ignited a seven minute stretch of excellent hockey from the Hawks that included three goals. Brandon Saad unleashed a missile only 43 seconds into the third period to tie the game, and Marian Hossa buried a power play goal less than six minutes later to give the Hawks the lead.
Unfortunately, Brent Seabrook was sent to the box late in the period and Jonas Brodin tied the game. Marco Scandella buried his first goal of the year less than four minutes later for the game-winning tally.
Corey Crawford made a number of big saves in the second and third periods, but made only 19 saves against 23 shots to take the loss. For the first time in 30 games, the Hawks have lost consecutive games in regulation.
With Andrew Shaw and Michal Handzus out of the lineup, coach Joel Quenneville mixed his lines early and often. The night started with Kris Versteeg at center between Saad and Kane, and Versteeg handled himself well. He won five of 10 faceoffs and passed the puck well throughout the game.
Versteeg was credited with the primary assist on Hossa’s goal, but was limited to 15:39 on the night. Ben Smith skated 15:09 and took nine faceoffs, winning only three. Saad lost all three of his faceoffs in the game. Marcus Kruger won six of ten faceoffs in the game and recorded another blocked shot.
Sheldon Brookbank skated only 4:59 in the game.
In net for the Wild, Josh Harding allowed three goals against only 19 shots to earn the victory. The Blackhawks were held to four shots in the third period by a stifling Wild defense that was credited with 17 blocked shots in the game.
The Blackhawks will need to turn it up physically on Friday night when they return to the United Center. After totaling only six hits in Minnesota, the Hawks will face the Anaheim Ducks less than 24 hours later at home.