(MCT) ST. PAUL, Minn. _ An errant puck clanked off the head of Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks coach merely laughed.
When you have clinched a postseason berth with 10 games remaining, just about anything draws a smile and Quenneville proved it after the puck hit him during the second period of the Hawks' 1-0 shutout of the Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. The triumph was the third consecutive for the Hawks and extended their points streak to six games.
Ray Emery (15-1-0) made 19 saves to record his third shutout of the season _ all within his last five games _ and the 14th of his career.
Marian Hossa provided the offense with a second-period goal, the only one the Hawks could manage against Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom.
"They threw a lot of pucks at the net but we put ourselves in a good position defensively." Emery said. "It was a tight-checking game and both teams were going pretty hard.'
Emery attributed his recent success to the defense.
"The team is playing really tight games," he said. Nineteen, 20 shots and mostly just single shots down the wing."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville agreed.
"Emery was solid, finding pucks," he said. "Our defense in front of him played very well. Our team was complementary to our defensive game. Ray has been doing a great job."
With the victory, the Hawks improved to 30-5-4 as they zero in on clinching the Central Division and Western Conference titles. The offense got a lift from the return of Patrick Sharp, who missed the previous 14 games with a left shoulder injury.
The Hawks had the better of the play in the first period, out-shooting the Wild 11-4 but just couldn't get the puck past Backstrom.
In the second, both teams had glorious chances when first Minnesota'a Cal Clutterbuck hacked away at a loose puck in the crease but could not connect and get it over the goal line before Emery smothered it.
A short time later, Sharp had an open net but his shot from a sharp angle was stopped by a lunging Backstrom. Sharp had another excellent opportunity with the Hawks on the power play after the Wild's Mike Rupp was sent off for roughing Daniel Carcillo but Backstrom was again up to the task.
A turnover by Clayton Stoner of the Wild resulted in the Hawks taking the lead late in the second period. Hossa intercepted Stoner's pass in the Minnesota zone and rifled a shot from the slot that sailed past Backstrom. It was Hossa's first goal since March 16 and the winger's 14th of the season.
Early in the third, Patrick Kane nearly made it a two-goal advantage when he broke in on Backstrom on a partial breakaway but couldn't finish.
"It seemed liked a playoff game," Hossa said. "There was tight-checking out there. We didn't have much room. We had some great chances at the beginning but their goalie played extremely well just like Ray.
"He was unbelievable for us. They made one mistake and we got the win."