Wild edge first-place Blackhawks
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Wild got just enough offense via first period goals by right winger Jason Pominville and left winger Matt Cooke to outlast the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Thursday.
Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper, making his fifth consecutive start, stopped 33 shots as the Wild improved to 8-3-0 in their last 11 games.
Chicago got 17 saves from goaltender Antti Raanta, but could not solve Kuemper until just 31.2 seconds remained. Right winger Patrick Kane got his 24th goal of the season with Raanta on the bench for an extra attacker. It was the second loss in as many nights for the Blackhawks, who fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Red Wings in Detroit on Wednesday.
The Wild scored on their first shot of the game, capping off a 3-on-2 rush to the Chicago net when center Mikael Granlund pulled Raanta out of position, then passed across the goalmouth to Pominville for a virtual tap-in.
Later in the period, during a scramble in front Raanta, two Blackhawks were whistled for minor penalties, giving the Wild two full minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. But despite controlling the puck for nearly the entire man advantage and getting a trio of shots on goal, the Wild could not add to their lead until later in the first.
Cooke scored his seventh goal of the season late in the opening period, throwing a low shot on net that fooled Raanta.
The middle period was scoreless, despite Chicago’s best efforts. The Blackhawks had an 11-6 edge in shots and killed off a pair of Minnesota power plays.
Minnesota left winger Zach Parise played for the first time in a month Thursday. He last played Dec. 22 and missed time recovering from a broken left foot. Raanta, who had last played in a Jan. 12 home win vs. Edmonton, fell to 12-2-3 with the loss.
Notes: Chicago D Duncan Keith was scratched for the first time this season Thursday due to an illness. Keith, with 43 assists in 52 games, leads all NHL defensemen in helpers. ... Wild D Nate Prosser played in his 100th career game Thursday, all of them with Minnesota. Last week he became the first Wild defenseman ever to score the winning goal in consecutive games when he got his second and third career goals vs. Edmonton and Dallas, respectively. ... A second period shot by Chicago LW Brandon Bollig hit Wild G Darcy Kuemper in the facemask, damaging his helmet. Kuemper skated to the Wild bench at the next whistle and after a delay played a few minutes wearing Wild G Niklas Backstrom’s helmet until his own helmet was repaired. ... The Blackhawks get a two-day break before hosting the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday in Chicago — their final home game prior to the Olympic break. The Wild are heading out on a four-game road trip which starts Saturday night when they visit the San Jose Sharks.