Winger Brandon Saad tallied two goals for the Blackhawks 4-1 win over the Wild in Sunday’s Game 2 at the United Center.
Their collaborative efforts, combined with a strong defense, yielded Coach Joel Quenneville his 800th career win.
Nearly halfway through the first period, Toews netted the first goal of the game rebounding a blocked breakaway attempt by Marian Hossa. Bickell fed Hossa for the breakaway. This gives Toews four goals and five assists for the postseason, Hossa two goals and six assists, and Bickell five goals and three assists.
Bickell now tops the league for 2013-14 playoff goals, making his four-year $16 million contract upgrade last summer seem even more worthwhile.
With less than a minute to go in a mostly uneventful second period, Saad doubled the lead with a wrister (assists: Bickell, Brent Seabrook) just after Justin Fontaine finished serving a hooking penalty.
Then, just like Game 1, an intermission pep talk empowered the Wild.
“They got that goal early in the third and all of the sudden they were coming at us,” Toews said.
Thanks to Crawford and a smart defense, the score held tight while the Hawks composed themselves.
As the final period came to a close, Bickell fired a shot to the maddening “ting” of the crossbar, believing he’d hit net.
“I raised my hand and I was yelling at the referee,” Bickell said of the no-goal. “And then he said, ‘No.’ Then Pierre (McGuire) said, ‘No,’ and I said, ‘Oh, shoot.’”
When the Wild pulled the goalie for an extra attacker with 1:23 to go, Saad sealed the victory with an empty-netter (assists: Hossa, Hjalmarsson) making it a 4-1 win for Chicago.
“I’m disappointed that we’re here down 2-0. Frustrated,” Zach Parise told media after the game. “But tonight we understand that we didn’t play nearly well enough to win. I think that’s what we’re upset about, not so much being down 2-0. That’s not fun either, but the way we played tonight wasn’t good enough, and definitely not good enough to beat the Blackhawks.”
The 4-1 final score doesn’t reflect the strength of the Blackhawks’ competition, however.
The Wild were just shy of the Hawks in shots on goal at 19-22, but led 13-7 in the second period. Their faceoff wins were 27-26; and, again, they led in hits at 32-23. Crawford made 19 saves. Bryzgalov made 21.
As the Blackhawks can attest after coming back against the Blues, 2-0 series leads (much like 2-0 game leads) don’t mean much in the playoffs this year.
“We’re still taking it one game at a time,” Toews said. “You go into every game planning to win; sometimes that goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. We’ll just continue the way we have. We’ll have a real challenge coming up on the road. It’s going to have to be our best game of the series, for sure.”
To stay on top while Minnesota has a home crowd empowering them, the Hawks will need to:
- Ready, aim, fire: Shoot the puck. Worry more about getting the puck on net than dizzying the opponent with passes.
- Stick around for the rebound: As displayed tonight, this makes for quality goal-scoring chances. Breakaways needn’t always signal a line change.
- Keep on blocking: The Blackhawks’ defense shot blocking, including one today by Hjalmarsson’s throat, has been phenomenal this postseason. While Crawford is doing a fine job holding his own so far in the series, taking pressure of the netminder can only benefit the entire team.
- Don’t let up. Start hot and heavy and stay that way through the final buzzer.
The Hawks take on the Wild again at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday in at the XCel Energy Center.