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Wild's strategy lulls Blackhawks to sleep
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith called the Minnesota Wild's style of play "patient." Coach Joel Quenneville said it was "well-disciplined." Winger Kris Versteeg went with a more basic description.
"It's boring to play against, and it's boring to watch," Versteeg said. "They really put you to sleep out there. They have five guys that basically just stand in front and just block shots.
"Playing against a team like that makes it pretty tough to really get any life in the building."
The boring approach worked just fine for the Wild in a 2-1 victory over the Hawks on Sunday night at the United Center. The defeat snapped the Hawks' four-game winning streak, and they lost for the fourth time in their last five home contests.
Minnesota backup goaltender Josh Harding was more spectacular than boring as he stopped a career-high 44 shots. Harding, starting in place of Nicklas Backstrom, was strong from the opening faceoff to the final horn, including several big stops during eight scoreless Hawks power plays.
"Their goaltender made some nice saves," Keith said. "We could have buried a few chances. It's frustrating. Give them credit. They stuck with their game plan.
"They just play a patient game. They play within their system. We outshot them and had more chances than them. It's not like we got outplayed."
Jonathan Toews was the only Hawk to solve Harding when he scored his 22nd goal of the season midway through the second period. Martin Havlat sent the puck toward the Minnesota goal, and it appeared to deflect off the skate of defenseman Marek Zidlicky right to Toews in front. The Hawks captain buried it for a 1-0 lead.
A controversial goal by the Wild's Dan Fritsche tied it 1-1 less than three minutes later. With the Hawks' James Wisniewski in the penalty box with a holding-the-stick penalty, Fritsche got his stick on a shot by Pierre-Marc Bouchard from the point and deflected it past Cristobal Huet. The Hawks argued Fritsche's stick was higher than the crossbar and shouldn't have counted, but after a video review the goal was allowed.
"I disagree 100 percent with the call," said Quenneville, who showed his displeasure by standing on the bench and yelling at the referee. "It was a big goal. It gets them in the game."
Peter Olvecky's first career goal early in the third period was the game-winner for the Wild. The rookie winger pushed a shot from the left circle past Huet for the final margin.
"We had a lot of good luck," said Harding, whose biggest stop came on Troy Brouwer's attempt while the Hawks had a five-on-three advantage in the second. "I'm glad to get the win. I was lucky on that desperate shot on Chicago's five-on-three power-play, but I'll certainly take it.
"We're happy to get out of here with the two points."