CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks were surprised by some physical play from the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, but the Wild claimed the Hawks set that tone.
“I don’t think you expected that game at all at the start,” Patrick Kane said after the Hawks’ 5-4 shootout loss. “My first couple shifts, guys are coming up saying stuff. You get a whack on the wrist and even a whack on the back of the legs they actually called. A lot of chippiness. Those teams are hard to predict.”
Kane wasn’t sure if it was a case of a team out of the race just playing for some pride or young players trying to prove themselves, but a fight-filled first period set the tone.
“I was kind of shocked myself,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It was feisty out there. It’s good for us because we have playoffs coming up. It’s a good test for us.”
Things revved up after Kane was slashed on his surgically repaired left wrist by Dany Heatley. There was no call on the play so the Hawks took things into their own hands. Brandon Bollig was sent out on the ice with the third line instead of with his usual fourth-line teammates. He skated right up to Heatley before the next face-off.
“I was just trying to get in his ear and let him know it wasn’t going to happen,” Bollig said. “I think it was effective. When something happens like that you have to address it and I was the guy to do that. It’s part of the game.”
Heatley wanted no part of Bollig but Clayton Stoner did. Bollig won the bout, but perhaps he motivated the wrong team, as Heatley later dished out an assist and scored a goal in the opening period.
“He was chirping about slashing [Kane] or something,” Heatley said. “I don’t know. He came up to me. I think it’s a guy trying to earn a spot on the team. I think it did fire us up and get us going.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo felt the Blackhawks were responsible for the physical escalation.
“As far as I’m concerned, they set the tone early in the game when Bollig went out and tried to get in [Heatley’s] face and then [Heatley] responded with an assist to help set up [Devin Setoguchi’s] goal and a goal himself,” Yeo said. “That was very impressive to me.”
Earlier Jimmy Hayes fought Justin Falk and later Andrew Shaw took on Cody Almond in a great fight. But the Kane slash really got the ball rolling.
“To be honest with you I didn’t even know who it was but it was good to see,” Kane said of Bollig coming to his defense. “A lot of energy from the young guys. Shaw gave us a real treat.”
Shaw waved to the crowd as he went to the penalty box after his long fight with Almond. The crowd responded in kind.
“They are exciting players to watch,” Patrick Sharp said. “They’ve been great since they’ve been called up.”
Although the Wild aren’t headed to the playoffs, they came out on top in this fight, winning one in a packed house on the road.
“It’s a fun rink to play in,” Heatley said. “I think it was loud when we came in here, and we enjoyed that tonight.”
Shaw continues to impress. He was a goal short of a Gordie Howe hat trick after fighting and then earning the key assist on Kane’s tying goal. It’s the second straight night he earned the late-game helper. He has 22 points, good for sixth among Western Conference rookies.
Sharp continued his great season with his 33rd goal in the first period. He has 33 goals to go along with 34 assists.
Ray Emery is now 10-0-3 in 16 games played at the United Center and remains the only NHL goalie without a regulation loss at home this season (min. 8 games).
Every Blackhawks forward recorded at least one shot on net.
After some recent dismal performances in the faceoff circle, Kane won 75 percent of his draws. Jamal Mayers also won 75 percent.