Chicago Blackhawks get fast start, cruise past struggling Minnesota Wild 4-1

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CHICAGO — Playing on the eve of his 36th birthday, Marian Hossa looked like a much younger forward. Just call it his usual solid performance.

Hossa, Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards each had a goal and an assist, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the sliding Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.

Defenseman Johnny Oduya also scored and Corey Crawford had 36 saves as Chicago rebounded from an ugly 5-2 loss at Edmonton on Friday night. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane added two assists apiece in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Hossa's tap-in goal in the first period was his ninth of the season and No. 473 for his career, moving him into a tie with former Blackhawks great Denis Savard and Alexander Mogilny for 50th on the NHL list. It was a nice way to celebrate another birthday for a winger who appears to be embracing his age in his 17th season.

"Maybe the number is higher, but I still feel good," he said. "That's how I look at it."

The weary Wild dropped their fifth consecutive game, including a 3-1 home loss to Nashville on Saturday night. Matt Cooke scored his third goal in the third period, and Niklas Backstrom had 31 saves in his third consecutive start.

"It just seems like everything that could go wrong is going wrong," defenseman Ryan Suter said.

The Wild dropped to 18-18-5 and are 12th in the loaded 14-team Western Conference, but coach Mike Yeo is certain they can turn it around.

"I'm confident in what we're capable of, but we have to better," he said. "So I'm not going to just sit around and hope that things are going to be better. We have to find a way to be better. We have to find a way to bring more to the rink every day."

Trailing 2-0 in the second, Minnesota had a chance to get back in the game, but defenseman Nate Prosser's shot went off the outside of the left post at 8:04. The Blackhawks then caught a break when Kane's shot went off Prosser's left skate and right to Richards, who beat Backstrom from the left side for his ninth goal.

Wild forward Jason Zucker made a great move to draw a penalty shot with 3:43 left in the second, but he sent a backhand wide of the net and a trailing Oduya made it 4-0 at 18:25 when he jumped on a loose puck for his second goal.

The Blackhawks (28-13-2) improved to 3-0 against the Wild this season with their second win over Minnesota in four days. Kane had a goal and two assists and Crawford made 42 saves in Chicago's 4-2 road win on Thursday night.

Now the Blackhawks have four days off before they host Winnipeg on Friday night. Sunday's win capped a stretch of five games in eight days.

"With the four days off here, at least we're going away feeling better about ourselves than our recent couple of games," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we had such a busy stretch, it will be nice to get a breather here and get excited about our nice, busy stretch going into the All-Star break."

Just like in its most recent matchup with Minnesota, Chicago put together a strong start.

Brandon Saad made a nice cross-ice pass to an open Toews, who then played it across the goalmouth to Hossa for the easy score at 4:17 of the first. Kane then made a nifty dash through the Minnesota zone to set up Bickell for a 2-0 lead at 7:53.

It was Bickell's fifth goal in his last seven games and No. 9 on the season.

"As of late, it's good. I need to stick with it," he said. "I need to repeat in my head what I'm doing to be successful and hopefully I can stick with it."

NOTES: The Blackhawks improved to 15-0 when leading after two periods. ... Wild D Marco Scandella missed his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Minnesota also scratched C Jordan Schroeder and D Justin Falk. ... Blackhawks C Joakim Nordstrom was a healthy scratch after playing in the previous four games. F Kris Versteeg missed his fifth consecutive game with a left hand injury, and D Tim Erixon was a healthy scratch for Chicago.


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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