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'Backup' stops Wild

Blackhawks goalie wins third straight start

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Even after winning his third straight start, Chicago goalie Steve Passmore still sees himself as Jocelyn Thibault's backup.

Passmore had to make only 15 saves -- eight in the final period -- and Phil Housley and Michael Nylander scored power-play goals to lead the Blackhawks to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.

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"I'm the guy who fills in when 'T' needs a break," Passmore said. "He's carried the load all year, and he's probably going to carry us in the playoffs, too. I'm a backup who's played a couple games in a row. End of story."

The Blackhawks trailed 1-0 after one but outshot the Wild 13-1 in the second period to take a 2-1 lead into the third.

"We had a few chances in the first," said Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire. "After that, we didn't test him."

Chicago coach Brian Sutter gave Passmore, 8-1-1 in his last 10 games, his third straight start for the first time this year. Thibault, who has played in 62 of the team's 74 games, is 1-5-2 since the Olympic break.

Sutter, though, didn't want to discuss who'd be starting Sunday when the Blackhawks face Minnesota at home.

"I'll worry about that tomorrow morning," Sutter said.

Nylander had two assists and Eric Daze also scored for the Blackhawks, who are third in the Western Conference with 89 points. The best they can do is the fourth seed, though, because division winners get the top three spots and Detroit has already clinched the Central. Chicago has a three-point edge on Los Angeles for the No. 4 seed.

The Wild, 7-4-1-2 since the Olympic break, missed a chance to surpass last season's victory (25) and point (68) totals and had their two-game winning streak stopped.

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Marian Gaborik scored for the Wild, his franchise-best 29th goal, and almost added an assist when his perfect feed across the crease to Andrew Brunette in the first period wasn't converted. But just 10 seconds later, Ladislav Benysek set up a breakaway for Gaborik, who sneaked past the Chicago defense and scored past Passmore's glove after a fake to his stick side to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.

"I deked, and it went in," Gaborik said. "I was kind of lucky."

Minnesota goalie Manny Fernandez, who has been improving after a difficult stretch in the middle of the season, was sharp in the first period and the early part of the second but had little help from his teammates the rest of the way.

The Wild were whistled for five penalties in the second period and finished 0-for-7 on the power play, failing to get even a shot off on a four-minute power play created by Mark Bell's double high-sticking penalty.

"We didn't have our best game moving the puck," Minnesota center Wes Walz said, "but they had a lot to do with it."

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