It didn’t look at all like Games 1 and 2 in this showdown, with big leads for the Blackhawks not reflecting the close play. But, keeping with tradition in the Blackhawks-Wild series so far, the home team won. The Blackhawks squeaked a win by the Wild at the United Center Sunday night.
The Wild struck first, striking fear in the hearts of fans aware that the team to score first in each game of the second round has ultimately won.
In fact, the whole first period was ultimately Minnesota’s. Brent Seabrook was called on a tripping penalty against Nino Niederreiter about 30 seconds after the puck drop. Shots were 8-6 in Wild’s favor.
With about 3:30 left in the period, Erik Haula took the puck coast to coast and backhanded a goal past Corey Crawford. Jared Spurgeon was credited with the assist. Haula has two goals and two assists against Chicago in this series.
The deflated Blackhawks left for first intermission to the sound of more than 20,000 disappointed fans.
“We are not going to get good chances all game,” Crawford said. “We have to work hard, get to the net, get pucks and bodies to the net and get those dirty goals. I mean, we have speed and skill, but that is not going to get you chances all the time; you have to mix it up and go hard to the net.”
That’s what they did in the second period when Peter Regin, fresh in the postseason lineup with Brandon Bollig’s suspension, drew a hooking penalty from Jonas Brodin.
“The second period was our best of the series,” Coach Joel Quenneville said.
The Blackhawks only produced the lone goal, however, despite taking the lead in shots at 15-6.
And the two teams battled through the rest of the game, with Toews delivering a big hit, then capitalizing passes from Sharp and Hossa to backhand the puck past goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and take the lead at 4:33 into the third.
The Wild would lead in shots 14-7 in the final period, and pull their goalie for a man-advantage, but be unable to score an equalizer before the final buzzer. Crawford made 27 saves and Bryzgalov made 26. Hits favored the Wild 48-31, while Chicago took faceoff wins 38-29.
“We definitely would like to finish it there,” Hossa (who has one goal, eight assists in this series) said about Game 6. “We know how hard it is to play in their building and we know we have to be better than we were in the last three games.”
The teams meet again at 8 p.m. CT (on CNBC) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with a chance for the Wild to force a Game 7 (as they were able to do to beat the Colorado Avalanche) or for the Hawks to head to the Western Conference Finals.