Fernandez, Foster lift Wild past sluggish Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Manny Fernandez is enjoying his increased

Fernandez made 31 saves, and rookie defenseman Kurtis Foster had
a goal and assist, to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 4-1 victory over
the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.

Kyle Wanvig, Marian Gaborik and Randy Robitaille also scored for
Minnesota, which has won two straight to complete a seven-game
homestand 3-4.

Duncan Keith scored for Chicago, which lost in regulation for
the first time in five games.

"There's nights when the other team doesn't get a lot of shots
on you and keep you fresh," said Fernandez, who faced 45 total
shots in his last two starts. "It seems like tonight they were
shooting everything. They were shooting from the outside a lot to
try and get some rebounds and I seemed to be in good position and
then the D really helped me out on a couple."

Especially Andrei Zyuzin, who stretched out to get his stick in
the way of Radim Vrbata's shot during a 5-on-3 power play early in
the second period. The Chicago winger had nearly the whole net to
shoot at after a rebound.

"It was either an ESPN save of the night or a goal," said
Fernandez, who has an NHL-best 2.02 goals against average and is
tied for first with a .929 save percentage.

Chicago, which allowed 20 first-period shots to Colorado on
Thursday, was sluggish at the start for the second straight night.

"I wish I had an answer for that," Blackhawks coach Trent
Yawney said.

Minnesota pressured goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin early before
Wanvig scored at 3:38 on the Wild's eighth shot.

After taking a couple of whacks at the puck in the crease, the
puck squirted to the right of the net where Stephane Veilleux
quickly centered it back to the crease.

"I was face first into the ice trying to get away from (Jim)
Vandermeer's stick, and it hit my glove and went in," Wanvig said.
"I'll take those any day, anywhere. I had him all the way."

The goal was important for Wanvig who didn't dress in three of
Minnesota's previous five games and 13 of 18.

"All I'm thinking about now is I want to play on Sunday," he
said. "It's never for sure what's going to happen."

Gaborik scored 6 minutes later during a power play. He took a
pass at the Chicago blue line, sped past Jaroslav Spacek, faked
right, and went left to tuck the puck past Khabibulin, making his
second straight start after missing 10 games with a strained groin.
Gaborik has 18 points in 16 career games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks, the NHL's most penalized team, were whistled for
nine infractions, one fewer than Thursday's total.

"We can't expect to take so many penalties and expect to win a
game," Khabibulin said.

Keith cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 2-1 when his wrist shot
from inside the blue line deflected over Fernandez with 1:20 left
in the first period.

Foster, who leads first-year defensemen with nine goals, scored
at 16:36 of the second. While behind the net, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
found Foster alone in the right circle for a one-timer that went
off the far post and just across the goal line.

Just 3 minutes after Fernandez made his best pad save by robbing
Vrbata as he cut across the crease, Robitaille tipped Foster's pass
into the Chicago net midway through the final period.

"We buried our chances," Fernandez said. "That's something
really important that we haven't done at home as much as we could
have, getting pucks to the net, being aggressive and getting
rebounds. In time that'll pay off."

Game notes
Fernandez has 17 wins, two shy of his career high set in
2000-01 and matched in 2002-03. ... Wild D Daniel Tjarnqvist missed
his third straight game with a bruised foot. ... Chicago D Jassen
Cullimore played just 22 seconds before leaving the game after
being hit in the face by a slap shot from Alex Henry. Yawney was
unsure of his status for the rematch Sunday in Chicago. ...
Blackhawks captain Adrian Aucoin missed his fifth straight game
with a pulled groin.