By BRIAN HALL | Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Ryan Hartman scored with 1:11 remaining in the third period and the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday.
Ryan Reaves and Frederick Gaudreau also scored for Minnesota, and Filip Gustavsson made 22 saves in goal.
The Wild have points in four straight after their franchise-record 14-game point streak was snapped on March 18. Minnesota started the day a point behind Dallas, which hosts Vancouver, for the lead in the Central Division.
“This is a game we should win,” Gustavsson said. “That’s what we said before, these two points are our points if we don’t play the wrong way. It was tight out there today. It didn’t feel like we really had the speed in the first period and it was kind of slow. We got a goal and we tried to ride it out, but they scored 1-1. And then Hartsy bailed us out today.”
Lukas Reichel scored for Chicago, which has lost four in a row. Former Minnesota goaltender Alex Stalock made 22 saves for the Blackhawks. Chicago is 3-9-2 since trading star Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers.
“Yeah, I thought the guys skated really hard,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “Disappointing that they didn’t get at least a point, get to overtime. But you know, it was just an unfortunate bounce to the end. I think right from the start we played really in their way and frustrated them quite a bit.”
Without leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild has gotten scoring from unexpected spots, including Reaves, the big enforcer who was acquired from the Rangers in November. He has four goals in the past seven games and five for the season.
“Just knowing that he’s out, I think everybody knows we’ve got to contribute a little bit more,” Reaves said. “I think it’s going to help us going to the playoffs that up and down the lineup we can contribute. It doesn’t all just have to rest on his shoulders.”
A slow start by both teams in the rare afternoon contest turned Minnesota’s way midway through the second period when Reaves used a backhand wraparound to open the scoring, with the puck deflecting off Stalock’s pads and then a skate into the goal.
Reichel scored his fourth goal in 26 games in his rookie season 1:15 into the third period.
Chicago had been outscored 11-1 in two previous losses.
“That’s too many goals we give up,” Reichel said. “So it was good that we, I mean, not good, but two goals that we give up, it was better in the D-zone. In our case, we got to move on and maybe learn how to win those games.”
Hartman broke the tie late with his 13th goal and Gaudreau added an empty-net goal for his 14th tally of the season.
“Personally, I think (last game against Philadelphia) was one of, at least, my worst game of the year and I think, to be honest, I followed it up with my second worst,” Hartman said. “Obviously the ending was great, so I’m not going to dwell on it too long. But, I’d like to get going a little bit more here.”
The Wild have won eight straight games against Chicago, their former playoff nemesis.
One reason for Minnesota’s surge has been the goaltending of Gustavsson and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Gustavsson has been a surprise all season while ranking second in the NHL in goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.932) among qualifying goaltenders entering the day. He is 8-1-4 in his last 13 games with a 1.75 goals-against and .946 save percentage.
The veteran Fleury is 7-0-1 in his last eight games with a .929 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average.
Blackhawks: Return home against Vancouver on Sunday.
Wild: Host Seattle on Monday.
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