Toews: We were this close again, just came up a bit short
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks were doing a lot right on Wednesday night. Their penalty kill came up big again. They pushed the pace more in the second and third periods.
The only thing they weren’t able to do was get one past the Minnesota Wild’s second goaltender on the evening.
Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored within 91 seconds of each other in the first period against Josh Harding, but the Blackhawks couldn’t get that answer in the shootout against Niklas Backstrom in a 3-2 loss at Xcel Energy Center. Matt Cullen provided the game-winner, sneaking one through Corey Crawford.
The Blackhawks’ winning streak ended at six but they still got a point, and remain atop the Western Conference standings.
“We got better as the game went on. We were fortunate to be ahead in the first period, and when you go to the shootout, anything can happen,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “There were some good things to take out of this. It’s disappointing we didn’t win, but let’s get excited about getting back into the W column.”
Harding hadn’t lost to the Blackhawks in this building before, but he was chased after giving up Toews’ goal in the first period. Backstrom, however, proved tougher to beat. Backstrom stopped all 28 shots he saw in regulation and overtime; Toews got one past him in the shootout but Patrick Sharp’s attempt to force another round clanged off the crossbar.
Still, the Blackhawks were happy with some aspects. Their penalty kill was tremendous again, especially in killing off 1:23 of 5-on-3 time the Wild had in the first period. Crawford closed that with a tremendous, flying save on Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
“It’s been huge, but we’d like to stay out of the box a little more,” Toews said. “But if we are once in a while, we have confidence that, if the game is on the line, we can get the job done.”
Quenneville said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger, who were the three on that kill, “did a good job showing patience and taking away the danger shots. And Crow made a spectacular save. When you’re killing for 1:23, you hold your breath sometimes, but they did a nice job.”
But while the Blackhawks had the majority of shots through the second and third periods and overtime, they couldn’t beat Backstrom. The Wild netminder also did a good job of either smothering opportunities or getting them out of harm’s way quickly. Shaw said the Blackhawks needed to attack more as soon as Backstrom entered.
“We have to get on the next goalie early, take pucks to the net and get traffic,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of that.”
The Blackhawks have won a few tight contests already this season. This one they just came up a little bit short.
“We still feel there are a lot of things we can do better to distance ourselves in a game like that,” Toews said. “We started a little slow again and then midway through the second and in the third, we got more shots on net and dictated the play. Those are the tight games we’ve found a way to win. We were this close again. The good thing is we’ll put this one behind us and be ready for the next one.”