If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to catch the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race this season Sunday’s game was one they probably had to win.
Thanks to a quick-strike offense early in the first period and a monster game from Corey Crawford in net, the Blackhawks were able to do just that and topped the Wild, 4-2, to pull to within one point of them for the top spot in the division.
The Blackhawks chased Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk just five minutes into the game thanks to goals from Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin on their first two shots of the game and never allowed the Wild to draw even.
The biggest reason they were never able to come back was the play of Crawford.
He was sensational all day in stopping 42 of the 44 shots the Wild threw at him, including all 20 shots he faced in the second period. The only two shots that beat him were an Eric Staal goal in the first period, and a wicked shot from Mikael Granlund in the third. Both goals brought the Wild to within one on the scoreboard but were followed by mistakes that allowed the Blackhawks to regain their two-goal lead.
After Staal’s goal closed the gap to 2-1, the Wild allowed Trevor van Riemsdyk to score early in the second period after Ryan White, in protest of a penalty call, seemed to be more interested in yelling at the referee than defending the play.
After Granlund closed the gap to 3-2, and as the Wild were attempting to put together one last push to tie the game, they allowed Marian Hossa to get behind their defense and beat Darcy Keumper with a slap shot to put the game away.