ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Corey Crawford may have stolen two points for the Chicago Blackhawks with an impressive performance.
Crawford made a season-high 42 saves, Bryan Bickell scored twice in the third period and the Blackhawks held on to beat the heavy-hearted Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Thursday night.
"That was a goalie win," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They were the better team tonight, for sure, and we dodged a bullet."
Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane also scored for Chicago, which has won four of six. The Blackhawks remained two points behind Nashville in the Central Division.
Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota, which has lost nine of 11.
"We were short. That's the bottom line," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "But I thought we had a good 60-minute effort from everyone, from the whole team, and that's what we're going to need to get out of this."
Facing a hot goaltender wouldn't hurt, either.
Crawford was at his best in the final two periods when the Wild had 37 shots on goal.
"I was just trying to look around traffic and to battle as hard as I could through screens and stuff, especially on their power play," he said. "They were playing with a lot of energy. We were able to weather the storm."
"He made a couple great saves for us at crucial times and that's what we need," Bickell said. "We need to be better in front of him."
The Wild played its second straight game without left wing Zach Parise. His father, former Minnesota North Star J.P. Parise, died Wednesday night after battling lung cancer.
Zach Parise, who missed Tuesday's game to be with his family, has been designated as a non-roster player to give him time to grieve. A moment of silence was held before the game and Wild players wore "11" decals on their helmets.
But Minnesota needed more than Parise.
With Darcy Kuemper, who has started 27 of the Wild's 39 games, out at least a week with lower-body injury, Niklas Backstrom — entering the game 60th in the league with an .896 save percentage — got the call in goal. He made 15 saves.
"It's not the easiest game to play as a goalie," he said. "You have to find a way even if there's not a lot of chances and a lot of shots. When they got a shot, it's very much a chance, so you have to find a way for that. You want to be better today."
Backstrom might have been able to get a save on Chicago's first goal barely 5 minutes into the game. Sharp gathered a loose puck low in the left circle, cut to the net and tucked the puck behind the Wild goaltender. It marked the first time in seven games that Chicago scored the game's first goal.
Backstrom had almost no chance when Kane made it 2-0 with a power-play goal late in the period, converting from below the right circle before Backstrom could scurry back across the crease.
Minnesota's slow start came one day after coach Mike Yeo laced an expletive-filled tirade at his team during an uninspired practice before breaking his stick over the boards and leaving the ice.
"We responded the right way," Pominville said. "Our bench was positive. Our room was good. We did a lot of good things to give ourselves a chance to win, and if we play that way we'll probably win most of our games."
The team's effort improved dramatically in the second period as the Wild controlled play, outshot Chicago 19-5, and scored the period's lone goal at 1:03.
With Minnesota keeping sustained pressure in the offensive zone, Koivu sent a pass along the boards behind the goal to Pominville who passed to Zucker in the slot. Zucker's one-timer beat Crawford high for his team-leading 15th goal.
NOTES: The teams meet again Sunday in Chicago. ... The Blackhawks are 14-1-0 when leading after one period; 14-0-0 when leading after two. ... Minnesota D Marco Scandella missed the game with an upper-body injury sustained Tuesday against San Jose. ... Wild F Jordan Schroeder, D Jonathan Blum and G John Curry were recalled from AHL Iowa. ... Chicago LW Daniel Carcillo returned. He was a healthy scratch the past two games.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.