MINNEAPOLIS — Jason Pominville and Erik Haula each had a goal and two assists, and the Minnesota Wild celebrated the first outdoor game in franchise history with a 6-1 victory on Sunday over the Chicago Blackhawks.
In front of a crowd of 50,426 at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus with an ideal faceoff temperature of 35 degrees, the Wild turned the NHL’s 17th edition of open-air hockey into a romp past their post-season nemesis and primary rival.
The Blackhawks pulled goalie Corey Crawford for Scott Darling after 19 saves in two periods. Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Carter each added a goal and an assist, and Matt Dumba and Thomas Vanek also scored.
Ten players tallied at least one point for the Wild, including all three former Golden Gophers in Vanek, Haula and Mike Reilly, whose college careers took place across the street at Mariucci Arena.
The Wild improved to 4-0 under interim coach John Torchetti and 3-0 this season against the Blackhawks, the team that has eliminated them from the playoffs in each of the past three years. The Wild have scored a whopping 21 goals in those four games since the firing last week of head coach Mike Yeo.
Despite the state’s rich history and nation-leading participation in the sport, the Wild had to wait awhile to play in an outdoor game. They became the 20th team to do so since the league first staged one in 2003. The Colorado Avalanche will be the 21st when they host a Stadium Series game next weekend.
The space between the boards and the front row of the lower seating bowl was covered in fake snow and dotted with 211 evergreens for an up-north look, except for the oversized NHL, Blackhawks and Wild logos.
There were plenty of Blackhawks fans mixed in among the locals, but they quickly went quiet. Carter took two whacks at the net on a breakaway, before Dumba swooped in to knock in the rebound just 3:25 into the game. Dumba wore excessive eye black, looking like one of the football players who usually call this facility home.
Vanek tipped in a power-play shot by Pominville a few minutes later, and the Wild never let up. They took a 3-0 lead early in the second period with some slick tic-tac-toe passing from Pominville behind the net to Haula up high to Niederreiter down low.
Pominville and Vanek played together with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 outdoor game, the first in the U.S. for the NHL.
The only negative for the Wild was an injury to left wing Jason Zucker, who took an elbow to the jaw from Blackhawks defenceman Michal Rozsival in the second period and needed help to shuffle off after lying still on his side for a few minutes while five members of the Wild’s medical staff examined him.
The back of Zucker’s head slammed on the ice after the collision with Rozsival, who was ejected for the hit and given a five-minute major penalty. Zucker was taken away on a cart.
NOTES: Kane has three goals and five assists in his past five games. … Pominville has 10 goals and six assists in 20 games against the Blackhawks. … Crawford has given up 14 goals in his past four games, covering only nine periods. … Wild defenceman Marco Scandella (upper body) returned from a two-game absence and had an assist. … This was the fourth outdoor game for the Blackhawks. … The Wild have a power-play goal in 11 of their past 13 games. … Haula has three goals and six assists in the past seven games.