Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/31/13
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With the Chicago Blackhawks off to the best start in their long franchise history, it was likely to take an extra effort to beat them. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Wild logged that extra effort, throughout overtime and a shootout and handed the Blackhawks their first loss. Zach Parise and Matt Cullen scored in the shootout as the Wild won, 3-2. Cullen also scored in regulation for Minnesota (4-2-1), which was dominated late in the game, but held on to get two points. "It felt like we were chasing the puck a lot tonight, but you've got to win games like that," Parise said. "It's good to give them their first loss." Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews got goals for the Blackhawks, who fell to 6-0-1. They got a shootout goal from Toews but lost when Patrick Sharp's shootout attempt hit the crossbar. "You go to a shootout and anything can happen, but I thought we had the play the last part of the game, so there are some good things to take out of it," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "Disappointing obviously when you don't win." Minnesota needed just 90 seconds to take the lead, when Cullen got his first goal of the season, poking a loose puck low between Corey Crawford's pads after the Chicago goalie had stopped Minnesota's first two shots on the play. "I got a few whacks at it," Cullen said, admitting fatigue for the Wild, who beat Columbus 3-2 on Tuesday night. "It's always nice to get an early one, especially on that second night. It's tough to claw back from behind when you're maybe not at full strength." The Blackhawks needed just a few minutes to answer, turning the deficit into a lead in a flash. Shaw tied the game, crashing the net to poke a loose puck past Minnesota starting goalie Josh Harding. A little over a minute later, after a Chicago shot had hit the crossbar, Toews' long-range blast slipped under Harding's stick. Having seen Harding allow two goals on Chicago's first four shots, Wild coach Mike Yeo switched and inserted goalie Niklas Backstrom, who was tested by the Blackhawks immediately. "I just felt it was what we needed," Yeo said. Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the lockout, got a shutout in his first start of the season, but looked shaky on Wednesday. "I haven't talked to (Harding) but I know he's OK. It's not because of anything bigger." Minnesota's best chance to tie the game in the first period came when the Wild had an extended 5-on-3 power play. But they could not capitalize on the two-man advantage. Minnesota got the equalizer at even strength in the opening minute of the second period, when Cal Clutterbuck redirected a shot from the blue line by defenseman Tom Gilbert. It was Clutterbuck's first goal of the season. From there, with the Wild losing stamina quickly, the Blackhawks controlled the play, out-shooting Minnesota 25-10 over the last 45 minutes. But they could not get a puck past Backstrom. "We started a little bit slow again but midway through the second and in the third we got more shots and dictated more of the play," Toews said. "Those are the tight games the last three or four games that we've found a way to win. We were this close again and had a great chance to win in overtime and even in the shootout, and just came up a bit short." Crawford finished with 23 saves for Chicago. Backstrom stopped all 28 shots he faced in his relief role, including six shots in overtime. The Minnesota players were quick to praise Harding despite his brief appearance and early exit. "We have nothing but confidence in Josh. We think the world of him and he's an unbelievable goalie," Cullen said. "Sometimes those changes are made to spark the team. It was early on and the change was made, but we have complete faith in Hards. Everybody has nights like that." The Wild now embark on a two game road swing to Anaheim and Phoenix starting on Friday. NOTES: With Disney on Ice occupying the United Center until Feb. 10, Wednesday's game was the first of a season-long six-game road trip for the Blackhawks. After Minnesota, they will visit Vancouver, Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville before their next home game, Feb. 12 against Anaheim. ... Desperate for offensive contributions from some place other than their top line, the Wild are suddenly getting a nice bump from their defensive corps. In Tuesday's home win over the Blue Jackets, five of the six defensemen in uniform had at least a point. ... The first two stoppages of play Wednesday came as a result of Chicago icing the puck on long breakout pass attempts. The third stoppage was for Cullen's goal. ... Wednesday marked just the third time that Backstrom has entered a game in relief of the starter over the past three seasons. His last relief appearance was on Nov. 12, 2011, after Harding started a 5-2 loss in Los Angeles.
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