The Chicago Blackhawks know what Joel Quenneville expects of them, so they were able to win beat a key rival in the Western Conference playoff race as their ailing coach recovered in hospital.
Troy Brouwer’s perfectly placed centring pass went off a Minnesota defenceman for the winning goal in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Wild 3-1 on Wednesday.
Quenneville was admitted to hospital with an undisclosed illness after he started feeling discomfort at home late Tuesday. Team physician Dr. Michael Terry said Wednesday morning Quenneville was in stable condition, and there was no further update.
Assistant Mike Haviland was in charge with Quenneville away, and the Blackhawks responded with a spirited effort in their first home game since a 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 25.
“We just knew what we had to do and what Q wanted us to do, compete and work hard and not change everything,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Havi was great behind the bench.
“He had full control of everything and showed his experience as a head coach and a leader, and did a great job.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Calgary 4 Dallas 2; Toronto 2 Buffalo 1; Los Angeles 4 Columbus 3 (SO); Washington 7 Anaheim 6; Philadelphia 4 Florida 2; New Jersey 3 Carolina 2; and Pittsburgh 3 Colorado 2 (OT).
At Chicago, Corey Crawford made 33 saves, and Brian Campbell also scored for the Blackhawks, which had lost six of eight games, including its previous two games in shootouts. Jake Dowell added an empty-net goal with 59 seconds left, and Marian Hossa had two assists.
“This was probably one of my better ones at home,” Crawford said.
The Wild (65 points) and Blackhawks (64) are battling for a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference.
“Every game is important. There is a lot of teams in the mix, battling for the playoffs,” Minnesota forward Martin Havlat said. “We have to move on.”
Chicago carried a 1-0 lead into the third, but Matt Cullen got behind the Blackhawks defence during a power play and beat Crawford 6:59 into the period. Rookie Jared Spurgeon set up Cullen’s 11th goal with a sharp pass.
The Blackhawks responded less than a minute later. After Chuck Kobasew was sent off for throwing his stick, Brouwer tried to find Hossa in front. The puck appeared to bounce off defenceman Greg Zanon before heading into the net.
“To get rewarded on the power play was a good feeling and it’s a great confidence builder,” Brouwer said.
Kobasew’s penalty was announced as interference and later changed to throwing his stick. Kobasew said the referee told him he threw part of his broken stick at a Blackhawks player, leading to the whistle for interference.
“I went to flex it in the neutral zone. The bottom half broke,” he said. “I dropped my stick, I turned, went to the bench for a new stick and I guess they viewed it that I was throwing it at a player.
“Didn’t cross my mind. I don’t know how it’s an interference call.”
It was a tough break for Jose Theodore, who kept the Wild in the game with 34 saves.
Dave Bolland added three assists for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are heading into a critical stretch of their season. Six of Chicago’s next seven games are against Western Conference teams.
“They know what’s at stake and what this is all about,” said Haviland, who received the game puck. “I was just proud to see those guys step up like they did.”
Minnesota outshot Chicago 17-10 in the opening period and had two power plays, but the Blackhawks still had the lead after one. Crawford made nice stops on Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and Cal Clutterbuck. Campbell’s power-play slap shot got past a screened Theodore at 12:59.
Minnesota’s streaking penalty killers got more action in the second and responded by helping Theodore shut out the Blackhawks during eight power-play minutes covering three calls. Entering the game, the Wild had killed 89.7 per cent of penalties since Dec. 31.
“We had some chances to win the game,” Havlat said. “Those eight, 10 minutes in the second period was very important.”
The Blackhawks also had several even-strength opportunities in the second but couldn’t convert. Hossa had a look at an open net but Cam Barker tied up his stick. Theodore also made pad saves on Hossa and Bryan Bickell
At Calgary, the unlikely duo of Cory Sarich and Steve Staios scored just over two minutes apart in the third period and sent the surging Flames past Dallas.
At Buffalo, N.Y., Joey Crabb’s short-handed goal midway through the third period snapped Toronto’s seven-game losing streak at Buffalo.
Kings 4 Blue Jackets 3 (SO)
At Columbus, Ohio, Jarret Stoll had the only goal in the shootout, leading Los Angeles past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Wednesday night and extending the Kings’ point streak to 10 games.
At Anaheim, Calif., Alexander Semin completed his seventh career hat trick by scoring the tying and go-ahead goals in the final minutes, and Washington dramatically rallied to snap its three-game skid with a victory over the Ducks.
At Sunrise, Fla., Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl scored 65 seconds apart in the first period and Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia held on to beat Florida.
At Newark, N.J., Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 20th goal of the season and sixth in seven games and New Jersey took another step in its unlikely playoff push by beating Carolina.
At Denver, Tyler Kennedy scored a power-play goal 4:10 into overtime and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots as Pittsburgh sent Colorado to its ninth straight loss.