(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)
Cueing “Chelsea Dagger” were Captain Jonathan Toews, and forwards Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, who tallied two. Veteran forward Marian Hossa and defenseman Duncan Keith were key playmakers as well.
The first period was pretty dull, with Hawks ‘tender Corey Crawford stopping six shots and the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk nabbing nine, but the last 40 minutes would boost the Blackhawks’ confidence as they prepare for two road games. But Chicago had impressive defense, only letting one shot attempt by in the first seven minutes.
While Andrew Shaw served a cross-checking penalty more than half-way through the second period, the Blackhawks would flip the power play and gain their own momentum.
The Wild’s Ryan Suter was corralling the puck along the wall at center ice when Hossa wrangled it away, allowing himself and Toews an open offensive zone–Hossa rushed, then passed back to Toews whose wrister gave the Hawks a shorthanded 1-0 lead with 7:32 left in the period.
“It kind of wakes up the team, wakes up the crowd, and it makes the game a little more interesting after that,” Kane said. “But we’re fine playing that way.”
With just 20 seconds left in the period, Keith fired a pass from the defensive blue line through the neutral zone to Kane, who snapped a wristshot from the right faceoff circle for a 2-0 lead.
While Michal Rozsival served the end of a carryover holding penalty at the beginning of the third, the Wild showed their special teams strength with a power play goal.
Just 1:20 into the period, Matt Dumba went top-shelf with a wrister after skating the puck into the zone on a pass from Suter set up by Dubnyk for a 2-1 score.
The Blackhawks took advantage of another mid-ice turnover to extend their lead once more, when Teuvo Teravainen pickpocketed Dumba near the boards, turned the play back to the offensive zone and passed up to Sharp, who delivered a five-hole wrister from the circle.
And, finally, after the Wild pulled Dubnyk for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks would solidify their victory.
With just over two minutes remaining, Niklas Hjalmarsson would free the puck to Sharp in defensive territory before Sharp pushed it up to Kane. Kane would then juke three defending Wild players for an empty-netter and the 4-1 score.
That goal gave Kane 101 points (41 goals, 60 assists) in 101 postseason games, ranking him 10th in the NHL. He also ranks 10th among active players with eight career playoff game-winning goals.
He has points in the last five games and goals in the last three.
“It was our best game all the way around,” Coach Joel Quenneville said. “Good pace and energy from the outset, good pace to our game, defensively solid, all lines were consistent, we had a lot of offensive zone time and puck possession. We played the right way.”
Wild Coach Mike Yeo had nothing good to say after the Game 2 loss.
“I don’t know what team played that game,” Yeo said, “but it wasn’t us.
“I’m sure they’re feeling real good. I’m sure they feel like they’re going to win the series. But I still feel we’re going to win the series. Our team does, too.”
Game 3–Who Will ‘Xcel’?
While Chicago is flying high with the two-game series lead, they’re aware of the hurdles ahead of them at Minnesota’s Energy Center.
“We felt this has always been our toughest game to have success in, the third game,” Quenneville said. “Usually the first game in their building.
“I just think you’re playing to win every game. You go into a game, you have to play the right way. We have to play better than the last game, and [Sunday night] we thought was our best game of the playoffs. We always feel we have to progress. These guys, you don’t have to convince them. We know we have to elevate it in their building.”
Historically, Chicago doesn’t do so well in their first postseason road game of a series. In fact, until that brutal double overtime win against the Predators in Nashville, the Hawks’s last victory for the first road game in a series was against the Sharks in 2010.
The Hawks are 1-9 in game threes with Quenneville as coach, while the Wild are 4-0
Last year the Blackhawks returned to the United Center from Minnesota with a 2-2 series tie.
“I think we were saying before the series [that], in a way, a lot of people look at us as the team that’s expected to win this series. We’re not thinking that way at all. We’re thinking we need to work for every chance, every bounce we’re going to get,” Toews said. “We’ve shown that so far and we know that there’s still a long ways to go, a lot of work left to do and a lot of room for improvement as far as our game goes. We like where we’re at right now, but we know that this series is long way from being over.”
So far this series, the Hawks narrowly edge the Wild 66-63 in shots on goal, but lead 65-55 in faceoff wins.
Part of that comes with the prowess of Antoine Vermette, who in the last few games has taken about 70 percent at the circle.
“He tells us where to go before the faceoff, and most of the time it’s going right there,” Sharp said. “That’s a huge advantage this time of year, special teams and faceoffs, and Vermy’s one of the best at it.”
The Wild is leading in hits and blocked shots.
“I feel like we were thinking too much about them instead of playing our game and the hockey we know how to play,” Wild winger Nino Niedereiter said.
The Blackhawks have to stay in their heads, which will be difficult to do in the Wild’s turf.
“We know (the Wild) are probably going to play their best game of the season so we have to do that too,” Johnny Oduya said.
If Chicago can manage to keep pressure in the neutral zone, pushing turnovers and preventing the development of plays like they did in Game 2, they’ll give themselves a tremendous advantage. Hossa, Teravainen, Keith (who was a plus-four Sunday), and Hjalmarsson, all managed steals.
“It’s still early enough in the series where if you give them any sort of confidence, you give them any sort of energy where if they come out of Game 3 feeling really good about themselves, things can really snowball in the wrong direction,” Toews said. “We’ve got the momentum right now. We feel good about our game. We can’t give them too much to feel good about and to feel energized by.”
The Blackhawks’ lineup is expected to go unchanged for Game 3 with Kris Versteeg still listed as day-to-day. Chris Stewart, who was in and out of Game 2 after he and Oduya crashed into the boards while racing for the puck in the second period, is out and listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Jordan Schroeder will take his place.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. CT Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center, televised on NBCSN, CBC, and TVASports.
Thursday, May 7
8:30 p.m. CT
Chicago at Minnesota
NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, May 9
Minnesota at Chicago
Monday, May 11
Chicago at Minnesota
Wednesday, May 13
Minnesota at Chicago
(As always, click the bold links for video clips or other information. Gifs via Stephanie Vail @myregularface)