ST. PAUL, Minn. – Trailing by four after 40 minutes, the Minnesota Wild heard the boos from their home fans. Four goals and a shootout later, the comeback was complete, and the cheers were deafening.
Mikko Koivu and Owen Nolan scored in the shootout after Minnesota scored four in the third period, and the Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 on Saturday night.
With less than 14 minutes left in regulation, the Wild got goals from Kim Johnsson, Mikko Koivu, Marek Zidlicky and Guillaume Latendresse to send the game to overtime.
“The first 40 minutes we watched them skate and watched them play,” said Wild coach Todd Richards. “We had a couple opportunities. But the last 20 minutes was great. The crowd and the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer and Marian Hossa scored in regulation for Chicago, which had surrendered just 27 third-period goals all season before Saturday. The Blackhawks snapped a five-game winning streak.
The Wild scored three goals in a 2:05 span early in the third to pull within a goal, igniting their largest home crowd of the season before Latendresse tied it with 1:33 to play.
“We had to find a way to kill off the momentum and we didn’t do that,” said Toews. “So they just kept going off it right into the shootout, and that’s what happens. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll learn from it.”
After a scoreless overtime, Minnesota needed eight rounds to decide the shootout. Patrick Kane got Chicago’s only shootout goal.
The Blackhawks struck quickly, getting on the board just 82 seconds into the game when Sharp buried Chicago’s second shot on goal. Brian Campbell’s rink-wide pass set up the play, as Sharp got his team-leading 15th goal.
Minnesota answered later on a similar play, with Martin Havlat feeding a crossing pass to Latendresse, who tied the game one-all. The assist by Havlat, who led the Blackhawks in scoring last season before signing with Minnesota as a free agent over the summer, extended his season-high point streak to seven games.
Toews and Versteeg scored later in the first period to put Chicago up 3-1, and the Blackhawks got a power play goal by Brouwer and a shorthanded goal by Hossa to open a seemingly-safe lead.
But things got closer, and louder, in the third. Johnsson chipped in a goal for Minnesota, then Koivu scored just 45 seconds later.
“When we scored a goal, it changed the momentum,” said Latendresse, who now has nine goals since coming to Minnesota in a trade from Montreal on Nov. 23. “Our legs came back, everything came back and things went well at the end.”
Dustin Byfuglien was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking on the next shift, and Zidlicky blasted a long shot on the power play that sailed under Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet to make it 5-4.
“Certainly we did a lot of good things up to that point,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “It wasn’t like we gave them a ton of chances in the third. It’s a tough loss. We had four chances in the shootout to end it. We left a big point on the table, that we can’t let go. But it’s a good lesson.”
Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom, needing one win to become the Wild’s all-time leader, instead had his roughest outing of the season, giving up five goals for the first time since an overtime loss to San Jose on March 10, 2009. He had seven saves in the first two periods but was replaced by Josh Harding for the final 25 minutes and the shootout. Harding finished with 13 saves, and stopped seven of eight shots in the shootout.
“Sometimes it’s a lot easier coming off the bench,” said Harding. “When you’re down by that much, there’s not really a lot of pressure. You just go out there and have fun.”
Huet finished with 16 saves for the Blackhawks, who play their next two at home before embarking on a season-high eight-game road trip.
NOTES: Chicago D Cam Barker was on the trip and participated in the team’s morning skate, but sat out his third consecutive game with an upper body injury. … Hossa’s shorthanded breakaway goal in the second period was the league-leading seventh shorthanded goal by the Blackhawks this season. Minnesota has now allowed a league-worst eight shorthanded goals. … Minnesota enforcer Derek Boogaard assisted on the Wild’s second goal, giving him three points for the season, and matching his point total from 2008-09.