All good things must come to an end, and last night in Minnesota the Blackhawks' 6-game winning streak did just that, losing to the Wild in overtime, 3-2. It was a fun ride over the past three weeks, but going 48-0 wasn't going to happen. Now it's time to loosen up the collar and get down to business: finishing out the season uninjured and becoming one of eight teams in the West to make the playoffs.
Matt Cullen got the Wild on the board first, just 90 seconds into the game, after sticking one past Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks then tied things up on a goal from Andrew Shaw, and then took the lead 1 minute, 31 seconds later on a Jonathan Toews shot, off the pass from Marian Hossa.
The Wild tied things up in the second period after Cal Cutterbuck redirected a shot past Crawford. The third period and 4-minute overtime stanza provided no scoring, which led to a shootout, the first of the season for both teams.
Zach Parise started the Wild off in the shootout, and snuck a blazing wrister past Crawford. Toews evened the score with a backhander, but it proved to be the last shot to get past goalie Niklas Backstrom, who replaced Josh Harding in the first period.
The Blackhawks still looked good in the effort, and definitely better rested. The Blackhawks outshot the Wild, 32-25, but with the insertion of Backstrom, who stopped all 28 shots he saw in regulation and in overtime, Chicago had no answer for how to chip away at the game's eventual number-1 star.
Put a star on coach Quenneville's adjustments for the five-on-three penalty deficit the Blackhawks faced early on in the game. Coming into this one, the Blackhawks ranked second in the league in penalty kills, just behind the Boston Bruins. Not to mention Crawford now finds himself tied for second in the league in save percentage (.933). Oh yeah, the person he's tied with? Former Blackhawks and current San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
Speaking of Niemi and the Sharks, the Blackhawks will face the second best team in the league, at least according to overall points (Blackhawks with 13; Sharks with 12), after back-to-back night stints in Vancouver (maybe with Luongo, maybe not - although he did blank the Avalanche last night) and Calgary. After that, it's on to Phoenix to face the Coyotes ('Yotes) and then to Music City before coming home for a very long, much-needed home stand.
So perfect no longer are these Blackhawks. But, hey, the Bulls lost 10 regular-season games during the 1995-'96 season. This team still looks sharp on offense and on the penalty kill, and will have a few bad breaks and bounces along the way. There might even be a blowout in their future - who knows. For now, finishing up the rest of this road trip with a handful more points is going to be key this early in the season.