ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild expected an improved Chicago Blackhawks opponent after walking into the United Center on Saturday night and taking two points.
The Wild saw that in Monday's rematch at Xcel Energy Center, yet the Wild did a decent job playing with the defending Stanley Cup champions until a string of sloppy mistakes late in the second period ultimately cost the Wild.
A few minutes after the latest Jason Pominville-from-Mikael Granlund strike tied the score, Sheldon Brookbank and Nick Leddy scored 3 minutes, 22 seconds apart to help the Blackhawks skate to a 5-1 rout in the back end of a home-and-home series.
Wearing its new road white uniforms so Wild fans could see them for the first time up close and personal, the Wild opened a four-game homestand by ending its four-game home winning streak and three-game overall winning streak.
Corey Crawford made 29 saves after surrendering five goals to the Wild on Saturday. Niklas Backstrom, outstanding with 33 saves Saturday but still saying he's not 100 percent from a recent knee injury and offseason abdominal surgery, gave up five goals on 28 shots. He served up many rebounds and was slow to recover at times.
The Blackhawks had two objectives Monday -- to improve defensively after giving up 11 goals the previous two games and to get snakebit Patrick Sharp going.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville loaded up the top line, skating Sharp alongside captain Jonathan Toews and two-way star Marian Hossa. The immediate byproduct was Sharp's second goal of the season. Patrick Kane, Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad were also put on the same line, and they combined for two goals and four assists.
Late in a scoreless first period, Hossa made a great play behind the net. On the forecheck, Hossa pulled a puck back with defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon on him and fed Sharp, who also was behind the net at the far post.
Backstrom didn't know the pass was made, so as he looked behind to his left, a wide-open Sharp scored from the other side.
It was payback after Backstrom denied Sharp seven times Saturday night.
But the Wild tied the score midway through the second period. Clayton Stoner fed Granlund in the neutral zone, and the Wild was able to enter with speed after defenseman Duncan Keith stepped up and missed Granlund at the blue line.
He fed Pominville, and the sharpshooter unloaded his sixth goal in eight games and team-leading seventh to tie the score.
It was the third time in two games Granlund set up Pominville. The two could be hard to separate if injured Charlie Coyle returns from a knee injury Friday against Montreal.
But the game unraveled quickly. Less than two minutes later, Stoner iced the puck and the Wild began to scramble after the ensuing faceoff.
Captain Mikko Koivu, who was on the ice for three Chicago goals, and Torrey Mitchell couldn't connect on a clearing attempt. Mitchell fell down, and moments later Sheldon Brookbank gave Chicago a 2-1 last after Backstrom was slow to recover after a collision with rookie defenseman Matt Dumba.
Ninety-nine seconds later, Marco Scandella was sent to the penalty box for holding. On the ensuing power play, Koivu failed to clear the zone. Brent Seabrook picked off the puck at the blue line and sent it over to Leddy, who recognized that Backstrom was slow to get up after being bumped by Brandon Saad.
Leddy, the 2009 Wild first-round draft pick, let it rip and scored his first career goal against his original team.
Early in the third, Dumba made another mistake that created a 2-on-1 for Chicago and easy Kane goal. He was on the ice for three of Chicago's last four goals during his ninth game. The Wild must now decide whether he stays or returns to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League.
(c)2013 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services