(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
The Minnesota Wild showed that they cannot be counted out of the playoffs. They earned a 4 to 0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, after previously falling behind two games to none in the series. The Wild are closing the gap and cut the Blackhawks’ series lead to 2 to 1. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgolov stopped all 19 shots for his first playoff shutout in Minnesota.
The hockey city and the crowd seemed to give the Wild the energy they were searching for in the first two games of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game would remain scoreless until the third period, when the Wild figured out how to get past Corey Crawford and open the game up.
One minute and forty one seconds into the third period, Erik Haula tipped the puck in to break the tie and give the Wild their first goal. It is very important to score the first goal against the Blackhawks, no team wants to find themselves in a situation trying to come back from behind when they are facing the Blackhawks’ puck control abilities and offensive power. About three minutes later, Mikael Granlund’s forehand, backhand move would lift the Wild to a two goal lead.
The Wild held onto the 2 to 0 lead until the 17 minute mark when they would capitalize on a power play opportunity to bring them to a commanding 3 to 0 lead with time running out. Zach Parise was in front of the net on the power play, and tipped the original shot from Ryan Suter, the tip-in hit the post and came back out to Parise who did not miss the wide open net.
Chicago pulled Crawford with just over two minutes left in the third period, but they were unable to gain possession to try to cut down Minnesota’s lead. The Wild intercepted the play and broke into Chicago’s zone, and Mikael Granlund got his second goal of the night, on the empty net, to increase the Wild’s lead to four goals.
The Minnesota Wild managed to take advantage of home ice to cut the series lead in half. They are going to have to come out with the same energy, if not more, to make sure they get another win at home to tie the series up at two. It would be hard to fall down three games to one and try to survive while heading back to Chicago.
Minnesota needs to keep isolating key players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, as well as watch the stretch passes, and of course stay out of the box. They also need to find a way to bring some of that home energy to their games in Chicago. The Blackhawks need to get Andrew Shaw back in the lineup, they need more quality shots, including shots on net from guys like Bickell, Sharp, Saad, and Keith, and Corey Crawford needs to stay sharp. Chicago only had eight hits while Minnesota had 22, Chicago needs to make sure they are matching the physicality of the game, while Minnesota needs to keep playing extra physical and continue throwing the body around.
Game four of this series takes place in Minnesota on Friday, May 9th, at 8:30 PM (CST).