Wednesday’s game in Chicago was your classic four-point game as the Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild entered the night in a three-way tie for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with 48 points.
It was the Wild that ended up taking advantage of the point swing a regulation win would provide as they moved into sole possession of that last playoff spot thanks to their 2-1 win.
The win not only came after the Wild had lost back-to-back games, including an ugly 7-2 loss in Colorado last week, but also snapped what had been a four-game road losing streak.
Things did not look promising for the Wild early on.
Minnesota was completely dominated in the opening 20 minutes as Chicago spent nearly the entire period cycling in its zone, attempting 41 of the game’s first 52 total shot attempts. But thanks to some stellar goaltending by Devan Dubnyk (34 saves on the night) they only faced a one-goal deficit.
Even that goal — scored by Brent Seabrook in his return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday night — was a close call and very easily could have been disallowe. The Wild challenged the goal in the hopes that the play was offsides, and while replay showed it to be extremely close there was not enough conclusive evidence to overturn it.
At the start of the second period, however, the Wild started to look a little less overmatched and were able to tie the game early in the period thanks to a Jonas Brodin goal that was deflected into the net behind Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg.
They took the lead early in the third period when Ryan Suter capped off an odd-man rush with his sixth goal of the season. After that the Wild played was perhaps their best hockey of the night to lock the game down and had three odd-man rushes, as well as a power play, in the final six minutes. They also had an outstanding penalty kill late in the period and received a stellar defensive play from Jared Spurgeon to break up a two-on-one rush from the Blackhawks.
The Wild now return home for a four-game homestand (that will be broken up by their bye week) that includes games against Winnipeg, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.
So here’s where things stand in the Western Conference playoff race as of Wednesday night:
The Wild sit in the second Wild Card spot with 50 points, one point back of the Dallas Stars and two points ahead of both the Blackhawks and Calgary Flames. Calgary still has two games in hand on the Wild, while the Blackhawks and Flames have one each. Minnesota and Chicago will meet just one more time this season (February 10 in Minnesota). They still have two more games against Dallas and have already played all three games against Calgary.