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Blackhawks look impressive in 5-1 win over Wild

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Updated: October 28, 2013 10:58PM



ST. PAUL, Minn. — Of all the things that went right for the Blackhawks in their 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night — and there were plenty — perhaps the biggest one was the most obvious one.

They blew a team out. They put a team away. They didn’t have to sweat out another nail-biting victory, or worse, a gut-wrenching defeat.

For the first time all season, the Hawks ran away with a game.

“Much better,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his third-period blood pressure levels. “First game in a long time where we had a nice lead.”

The Hawks didn’t solve all their problems in this one. But after two straight ugly losses in which they yielded 11 goals, things are certainly looking up.

Quenneville’s revamped top two lines each produced goals, Corey Crawford (29 saves) and the defense rebounded with a stellar effort, Patrick Sharp finally got off the schneid, newcomer Brad Mills spearheaded a perfect penalty kill, and Brandon Saad set up one highlight-reel third-period goal and scored another as the Hawks turned a tight game into a laugher for the first time all season.

“That’s the way we want to play, and that’s the way we know we can play,” said hometown boy Nick Leddy, who scored his first goal at XCel Energy Center since his days at nearby Eden Prairie High School. “We weren’t playing how we want to play the last couple of games, so this felt good.”

The Hawks padded the lead with their skill, but built it with some gritty work — the kind Quenneville said they had been getting away from lately.

Sharp, who hadn’t scored in five games and had just one goal all season despite creating as many chances as anyone on the team, finally broke through late in the first period. New linemate Marian Hossa worked the puck free from two Wild players behind the net, and Sharp made a nifty move at the corner of the crease to tuck the puck in behind Niklas Backstrom for a 1-0 lead.

“I wasn’t too panicked,” Sharp said. “I’ve been down that road before a few times. I felt like I was generating chances, my linemates were playing well, and it was just a matter of time before one went in. Nice to put one in; hopefully that starts something.”

After Jason Pominville tied it midway through the second period with his sixth goal in eight games, the Hawks quickly responded with a pair of goals. First, Sheldon Brookbank scored his first goal when Brandon Pirri (two assists) deflected a Leddy shot behind the net, where Patrick Kane fished it out and wheeled around the net to set up Brookbank for a one-timer.

Less than two minutes later, Leddy scored on the power play — making it five straight games with a power play goal for the Hawks — beating Backstrom from the point after Brent Seabrook made a terrific play at the other point to hold the zone. Leddy also had two assists against the team that drafted him in Saturday’s 5-3 loss at the United Center.

The Hawks then did what they haven’t been able to do all year — pour it on. Saad took a page out of Kane’s book on a two-on-one, feeding Kane with a behind-the-back, spin-o-rama pass around star defenseman Ryan Suter to make it 4-1 at 2:47 of the third.

Saad said Kane didn’t mind him using one of his patented moves.

“I don’t think so,” Saad smirked. “He was pretty happy, jacked-up for it.”

Saad then made it 5-1 with some nifty stickwork, taking a Duncan Keith pass and beating Backstrom between the legs during 4-on-4 play at 8:43.

Add in a 3-for-3 effort on the penalty kill and several big stops by Crawford, and Quenneville called it the “most consistent game we’ve had.”

Not to mention the least stressful.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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