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Kuemper lifts Minnesota Wild to victory over the Chicago Blackhawks

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Darcy Kuemper stopped 16 shots in the third period to preserve a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Kuemper has started seven games since getting recalled from Iowa on Jan. 2. In those games, he has a 5-2 record with a 1.68 goals against average and .945 save percentage.

“I’m pretty confident right now,” Kuemper said. “When get a chance in there, I just want to give the team a chance to win. When you are getting wins like this, it is easy to keep rolling.”

The Minnesota Wild got goals nearly seven and a half minutes apart in the first period for the only scoring it needed.

Jason Pominville scored the first goal of the game at the 8:08 mark of the opening period off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play with Mikael Granlund and Dany Heatley. Pominville started the rush with a cross-ice pass to Heatley at the blue line. Heatley sent a pass toward the front of the net to a streaking Granlund. He caught the pass as whistled a no-look pass to Pominville on the backdoor for the open net goal.

“We had a 3-on-2 and (Heatley) gave me a great pass,” Granlund said. “I just tried to go to (Pominville) and he was there. It was a good goal for us.

“Just a lucky guess (that Pominville would be there). Sometimes that happens.”

Matt Cooke scored the eventual game-winning goal with four minutes and 29 seconds remaining in the first period. Cooke took a pass from Justin Fontaine in the offensive zone and snuck a shot through Antti Raanta’s legs.

The Wild (28-20-5) clinched the season series win over the Blackhawks. With one game to play, the Wild won three out of the first four with no games going to overtime.

“You want to get up for every game against them,” Kuemper said. “They’ve become a rival of ours. I think we just come to play against them.”

The Blackhawks (32-9-12) avoided the shutout and made the game interesting when Patrick Kane fired a shot into a wide open net after a Nick Leddy shot from the side boards hit traffic in front and caromed across the slot.

The Wild were able to keep the Blackhawks generally out of good scoring areas and forced them find other ways to score.

“They check well and are good here at home,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t look to get some greasy stuff. I thought were a little too much on the outside. It’s hard to get direct plays by shooting in the slot and we were looking for it a little to much.”

The Wild return to action Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.

Three Stars

No. 3 - Matt Cooke. The Wild forward scored a goal.

No. 2 - Jonas Brodin. The Wild defenseman blocked five shots.

No. 1 - Darcy Kuemper. The Wild goaltender stopped 33 shots.

Boxscore

Chicago………0 0 1 - 1

Minnesota……2 0 0 - 2

First Period - 1, Minnesota, Pominville 20 (Granlund, Heatley), 8:08. 2, Minnesota, Cooke 7 (Fontaine, Brodziak), 15:31. Penalties - Sharp, CHI (cross checking), 12:45; Seabrook, CHI (cross checking), 12:45; Cooke, MIN (tripping), 18:32.

Second Period - None. Penalties - Hossa, CHI (slashing), 2:11; Bollig, CHI (high sticking), 17:32.

Third Period - 3, Chicago, Kane 24 (Leddy, Sharp), 19:28. Penalties - None.

Shots on goal - Chicago 6-11-17 34. Minnesota 10-6-3 19.

Goalies - Chicago, Raanta (17-19). Minnesota, Kuemper (33-34). Referees - Tom Kowal, Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen - Ryan Galloway, Greg Devorski.

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