By BRIAN HALL | Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mats Zuccarello had three goals and an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots as the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth straight win.
Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and two assists, and Sam Steel added two assists as Minnesota’s top line continued its high-scoring ways. The trio has combined for 19 goals since the 24-year-old Steel was first matched with Kaprizov and Zuccarello on the top line 13 games ago.
The Wild are 10-3-0 in that stretch.
“I think all three work hard, on the puck, aggressive, create chances for each other,” Zuccarello said of his line. “That’s what we try to achieve every game. Some games, it’s hard. Some games, the puck bounces our way on our sticks. I think today was a pretty good game for us and, obviously, for the team.”
Jonathan Toews scored his 10th goal of the season and Petr Mrazek had 18 saves for Chicago, which has lost six straight — all in regulation — and 14 of 15 overall (1-13-1).
“Everybody wants to win in this league, so I think we have to understand where our team is playing at right now,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “It’s starting to come back together. ... The last two games, much better. But still got to go up to win in this league.”
Zuccarello and the top line didn’t take long to strike against the Blackhawks. Minnesota controlled the puck in the offensive zone for a long shift before Zuccarello scored with 4:54 left in the first period. Steel sent a cross-ice pass to Kaprizov, who quickly sent a one-time pass to Zuccarello at the side of the goal and Zuccarello redirected it past Mrazek to extend his point streak to nine games.
Kaprizov scored at 8:32 of the second for his 18th of the season, putting the puck on net from a tough angle that found its way in after Mrazek slid backward.
Zuccarello made it 3-0 with 43 seconds left in the second with a power-play goal. Mrazek slid across to defend Matt Boldy, who passed to a wide-open Zuccarello on the back side.
“He’s committed to team-first mentality and then allowing that to translate into offense,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of Zuccarello. “He’s been a real good leader for us all year.”
Toews finally gave Chicago its first goal on the power play 8:27 into the third. The Blackhawks were playing the second game of a back-to-back after a 4-1 home loss to Vegas on Thursday. They are 0-4-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
“Obviously, we’re going through it right now,” Blackhawks center Max Domi said. “I think we all recognize that, but we’re not going to quit. We’re not going to stand down. Just got to find a way to get one here and build on that.”
Zuccarello’s empty-netter with 2:09 left completed his second career hat trick — first since Oct. 30, 2015, while with the New York Rangers. It was also his 13th goal of the season. At 35 years old, he became the oldest player in franchise history with a hat trick.
“Three open netters,” Zuccarello said. “Even I can make all of those.”
Zuccarello has six goals and eight assists during his point streak, which is one shy of his career-best stretch. ... The Wild have a power-play goal in five straight games. They are 18 of 53 on the power play at home, the second-best mark in the NHL. … Minnesota is tied for first in the NHL with seven wins and 14 points in December (7-2-0).
Blackhawks: Host the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Wild: Host Ottawa on Sunday.
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