Niklas Backstrom probably figured it was going to be his night when the Wild goaltender made it out of the pregame warm-up without incident.
When the Wild and Blackhawks met in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals in April Backstrom suffered a season-ending sports hernia before puck drop and had to watch the rest of the way as his team fell in five contests.
On Saturday night, Backstrom not only finished the game but starred in it as the netminder stymied the Hawks in a 5-3 Wild victory in front of a crowd of 21,521. The Hawks had their seven-game point streak snapped as they lost for the second consecutive time to drop to 6-2-3
Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak, Jason Pominville (twice) and Justin Fontaine found ways to solve Hawks goalie Corey Crawford while Backstrom allowed goals from Bryan Bickell, Patrick Kane and Marcus Kruger. The Wild upped their record to 6-3-3 in the first of two meetings in three days.
The Hawks tested Backstrom in the opening minute when Jonathan Toews ripped a shot from the left circle that the goalie denied. Backstrom then stood tall to make the save on Marian Hossa’s rebound attempt.
Parise put the Wild in front with a power-play goal midway through the first period. With Hossa in the box for interference, Minnesota wasted no time as it scored five seconds into the man advantage when Parise chipped in a rebound of a long Ryan Suter shot.
Backstrom kept the Hawks off the scoreboard with a brilliant glove save on Patrick Sharp a few minutes later. The Hawks winger held the puck and with Backstrom down on the ice, sent a shot toward a gaping net that the netminder got his glove on.
The Hawks never trailed by two goals during the initial eight games of the season but found themselves down by a pair for the second time in as many games when Brodziak redirected a long Marco Scandella shot just more than a minute into the second period.
It appeared briefly that the Hawks had cut the deficit at the midpoint of the second when Jeremy Morin appear to score off a deflection from the raised stick of Andrew Shaw. It was disallowed after a lengthy review.
Not long after the booing from the crowd dissipated, cheers erupted when Bickell pounced on a loose puck and beat Backstrom from the edge of the left circle.
The Wild kept coming and took a 3-1 lead late in the second on Pominville’s snap shot past Crawford to the stick side.
The game marked the Hawks’ 11th of the season and after the first 10, Toews gave his assessment of the campaign thus far.
“There are some … small problems that just keep coming back in our game and we have to find a way to get rid of those,” the Hawks captain said. “We’re learning.”