For the third time in four tries and both times at the United Center, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Blackhawks with a style that can make the biggest hockey enthusiast question the will to live. Well, it wasn’t as bad as the Wild would have preferred, but Wild goalie Josh Harding might as well have been wearing a ski mask tonight because he robbed the ‘Hawks of two more points. For the fifth straight game, the ‘Hawks registered over 35 shots and for the third time in the last four games, the ‘Hawks had over 40 shots putting up a total of 45 against Harding.
Harding robbed Troy Brouwer and Martin Havlat on beautiful one-time scoring opportunities in the second period. Against Brouwer, he reached back across the crease and nabbed it with his glove; Havlat was denied by the blocker. The saves were almost mirror images of each other. The ‘Hawks finally solved Harding when Jonathan Toews netted his 22nd goal of the year with assists from Patrick Kane and Martin Havlat. The lead didn’t last long though. Dan Fritsche may have caught a break when he tipped in a Pierre-Marc Bouchard point shot. Everyone on the ‘Hawks seemed to think he tipped it with a high stick. After the game, Judd Sirott had a sound bite from NHL war room veteran Mike Murphy who indicated there was no conclusive evidence it was a high stick saying one replay showed the tip was legit and the other may have been a high stick but the camera was at a bad angle. Alas, that wasn’t the last break that wouldn’t go the ‘Hawks way.
After the Wild took the lead on Peter Olvecky’s first career goal with sixteen and a half minutes left, Minnesota was essentially killing a penalty the rest of the way. Only figuratively, of course. The Wild stacked up their five skaters at center ice and tried to force neutral zone turnovers. It worked for a little, but for the most part, the ‘Hawks had no problem carving through the Wild. Unfortunately, Josh Harding was waiting in goal for anything the ‘Hawks threw his way. There were some golden opportunties. Dustin Byfuglien had enough to feed a small village, just missing the far post on a deflected shot with about a minute and a half left.
Even with the loss, the ‘Hawks appear lucky to have come out of this game relatively unscathed after a couple of close calls. Cam Barker blocked a slap shot right off his leg in the second period and needed to be helped off the ice. He returned for a shift but couldn’t skate at the level expected. Kris Versteeg went tumbling into the boards head first in the third and looked pretty shaken up but was able to finish the game. After the game, Q said Barker will be traveling with the team to Nashville, so it looks like danger was averted.