ST. PAUL—Coach Denis Savard was pleased with the Blackhawks' performance in their regular-season opener Thursday night. But the outcome was a 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center, an outcome that left Savard "disappointed we didn't get the result we wanted."
A bigger disappointment could be looming as last season's leading scorer, Martin Havlat, injured his right shoulder late in the third period and left the ice before kneeling on all fours in pain in the tunnel leading to the locker room.
Havlat was injured in a melee in front of the Wild's net after Minnesota goalie Nicklas Backstrom made a save. Several players were involved, and Havlat fell to the ice before getting up and skating off holding his shoulder.
"[Someone] took a free punch at him, and he just kind of lifted up his shoulder to protect himself," Savard said.
"I think that's how he got hurt. That's the way it looked from the bench."
Havlat had surgery in April to repair a torn right labrum. He also had surgery in 2005.
Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin had a strong effort in net, stopping 23 shots. The Wild goal came with 4 minutes 47 seconds left in the second period when Eric Belanger slid a pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who fired the puck from in close.
Patrick Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, made his NHL debut for the Hawks and had two shots in 16:44 of play. It was enough to impress his coach.
"He was tremendous, the best forward on the ice," Savard said. "It says a lot about the kid. That's why it's going to be fun for our fans."
Kane skated on a line with veterans Yanic Perreault and Jason Williams.
"I felt pretty good out there," said Kane, 18. "It all comes down to working hard and playing with confidence, but I guess it would have been a little nicer if we got the win.
"I can see it coming along. It's just a matter of time before things start clicking."
Minnesota continued its strong play over the Hawks. The Wild swept the four-game series last season, including three victories in overtime. With Thursday night's triumph Minnesota has 18 wins over the Hawks, the most it has against any opponent.
Khabibulin kept the game close with a stop on a Belanger breakaway early in the third period, and the Hawks had several chances to tie the game late.
"We played well, we played hard and had a lot of chances," Savard said. "Our guys gave it everything they had, and it could have gone either way. I felt the effort was tremendous. Good goaltending by both teams."
Backstrom made 27 saves to record his sixth career shutout.
Veteran center Robert Lang of the Hawks played in his 800th career game.
"Every time you get to one of those hundreds, it's fun to reach them," said Lang, who joined the Hawks as a free agent July 2. "It's a lot of games and it took a long time, and it's kind of nice to get there."