ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks and Wild have used each other as "measuring sticks."
The only problem with that this season is those measuring sticks aren't particularly long. The Hawks entered Saturday in fifth place in the Central Division while the Wild were last -- not exactly where the two teams are accustomed to seeing one another.
"The playoffs come around, you want to make the run for the Cup you're probably going to have to go through one of these two teams," Toews said. "It's a long season but these games early on are very important."
In that important game, the Hawks defeated the Wild, 2-0, after Artem Anisimov provided the winning goal 14 minutes, 18 seconds into the third period. Alex DeBrincat added an empty-net goal.
The Hawks began Saturday playing one of their best periods of the season in which they didn't score a goal. They led the Wild 16-9 in shots on goal and generated pressure on Dubnyk throughout the period. Alex DeBrincat nearly scored his third goal of the season off a rebound on the doorstep, but center Eric Staal got his stick in there to swipe away DeBrincat's chance.
Michal Kempny tallied four shots on goal in the period while Ryan Hartman had three. The Wild had their best chances on a power play late in the third period after Nick Schmaltz committed a hooking penalty at 17:35.
Nino Niederreiter appeared to score the first goal of the game with a deflection from the slot. The goal horn went off for a second and the goal light went on behind the net. But the official closest to the net waved no goal and play continued. It turned out to be the correct call. On replay the puck hit the post and appeared to be sliding over the goal line, but at the last instant, goaltender Corey Crawford's skate swiped it away to preserve the 0-0 tie.
Early in the second period, the snakebitten DeBrincat couldn't capitalize on another scoring chance in close. This time he was on a 2-on-1 rush with Richard Panik. Panik sent DeBrincat a pass that hit DeBrincat in stride and DeBrincat lifted the puck, only the puck hit the post.
The Hawks again outshot the Wild in the second period, 9-8, but their power play continued its malaise by going empty twice in the period. After scoring a power-play goal in their victory over the Flyers on Wednesday, it seemed the power play could be poised for a breakthrough. But two attempts in the second period failed to generate much in the way of scoring chances. The Hawks mounted just two shots combined on the pair of man advantages.
But Crawford, coming off his first shutout of the season, was a stalwart in net again through the first 40 minutes, preventing a number of close Wild chances and limiting the rebounds he allowed.
(c)2017 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.