ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Bryan Bickell scored twice in the third period, Corey Crawford made a season-high 42 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks held on to beat the heavy-hearted Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Thursday night.
Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane also scored for Chicago, which has won four of six. The Blackhawks entered the night two points behind Nashville atop the Central Division.
Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota, which has lost nine of 11.
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.
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.
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, Mikko 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.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.