Patrick Kane lifts the puck past Niklas Backstrom to score the winning goal in the shootout against the Wild. | Tom Olmscheid~AP
Updated: January 16, 2012 10:36AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The game was meant to be won by the Blackhawks’ or the Minnesota Wild’s best players. It was, after all, billed as an early statement game between the best teams in the Western Conference, according to the standings.
So it was fitting that Wednesday’s game at Xcel Energy Center came down to a shootout.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane beat Niklas Backstrom while Ray Emery turned away Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley in the Hawks’ 4-3 victory. The Hawks have 42 points in 31 games and the Wild 44 points in 32 games.
“It was a good game by both teams,” said Kane, who scored a remarkable goal in the shootout with a slow-moving approach and a ton of moves. “I just kind of slowed down and waited for the goalie to bite. I was kind of practicing to go slow and see which way the goalie bites. It was a good finish to a good game.”
Toews had a goal and an assist, and Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik also scored for the Hawks in regulation. But the Wild rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second and a 3-2 hole in the third to stay with the Hawks.
Still, in what has become a trend for the Hawks, they managed to grab the extra point. Five of their last six games have gone to a shootout or overtime, and they’ve won four of them. The Hawks are 10-2-4 in one-goal games.
“We know if we get to OT or get to a shootout, that extra point can be ours,” Toews said. “For the most part, we’re never satisfied to get OT. We’ve been fighting hard for that second point.”
The Hawks dominated early, outshooting the Wild 11-2 in the first period. But center Kyle Brodziak gave the Wild some life, scoring its first goal at 13:10 in the second period. Icing should have been called before the goal, but play continued as Nick Johnson set up Brodziak. Just 2:21 later, Cullen tied the game at 2.
“I talked to the officials afterward,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was one of those plays where you appreciate the way they saw it. But it’s one of those calls where we still have to keep playing.”
“It was a good hockey game. . . . A lot of games have gone to overtime recently, and getting points is what it’s all about and finding ways to win.”
Goals from Hossa (power play) and Frolik (on a nice feed from Marcus Kruger) less than two minutes apart gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead halfway through the second.
Toews made it 3-2 with a nifty goal 6:54 into the third. But Mikko Koivu tied it with 5:04 left, scoring on a shot that deflected off Nick Leddy during a delayed penalty.
Backstrom (28 saves) and Emery (27 saves, third consecutive victory) were solid in net, setting the stage for Kane’s highlight-reel goal, which came after a goal by Toews.
“It was awesome. It was for the win,” Toews said. “There’s a lot of pressure, there. It’s tough to go in there thinking about what you want to do with all that riding on it. He made no mistakes. It was a big win for the boys and a little flash by P. Kane.”