The United Center crowd voiced its displeasure at the end of the first period, the Chicago Blackhawks trailing 1-0 through those first 20 minutes.
“The fans weren’t happy, we weren’t happy,” said Marian Hossa. “We came to the room, we needed to take a big breath and relax with the puck.”
The deep inhale and subsequent exhale apparently worked. So did a timely power-play goal and a gritty from-the-doorstep goal from the captain. And while it wasn’t the prettiest game the Blackhawks have played, it nevertheless yielded the desired result.
Jonathan Toews scored his fourth game-winning goal of the postseason and Corey Crawford was stellar in stopping 27 of 28 as the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in Game 5 of their second-round series on Sunday night. The Blackhawks take a 3-2 series lead back to Minnesota, where the Wild have yet to lose this postseason. But the Blackhawks will be happy to buck another trend; they’re the first team in the second round to win a game after giving up the first goal.
Patrick Sharp had two assists and Bryan Bickell had his sixth goal of the postseason for the Blackhawks. Peter Regin was strong in his first playoff appearance with the Blackhawks, drawing a key penalty and recording three hits in 11 ½ minutes of ice time.
“That was a good hockey game,” said Crawford, who rebounded well after a rough Game 4. “We played pretty consistently throughout the whole thing and got better in the tighter moments at the end; great play by our guys getting (the puck) out in the last couple seconds there. We needed a big win to get a chance to finish this series on the road.”
In the beginning, however, it wasn’t looking like it would be a positive end for the Blackhawks. They looked listless, suffering the same issues that plagued them in Minnesota with puck possession and struggles to gain sustained time in the Wild’s zone. The Wild struck first, with Erik Haula scoring on his own rebound for a 1-0 lead.
Then the Blackhawks took advantage of an opportunity. Regin drew a hooking penalty from Jonas Brodin and 45 seconds into the power play Bickell deflected a Patrick Kane shot to tie it 1-1.
The Blackhawks got the game-winner the hard way early in the third. Toews, planted near the crease, backhanded a Hossa shot past Ilya Bryzgalov for the 2-1 edge. The goal was a microcosm of the series: nothing comes easy.
“An amazing goal,” Crawford said of Toews’ winner. “He’s done it a bunch of times, so many you tend to forget a little bit. He’s definitely relentless and scores in so many different ways he’s hard to stop.”
Crawford did the rest, especially down the stretch. After pulling Bryzgalov for the final time with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation, the Wild had some great scoring chances. Crawford stopped them, denying the Wild on all 14 of their third-period shots.
“Somehow he sees it, somehow he finds it,” Toews said. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking a little bit when you’re watching from the bench but he’s as calm as ever and a big reason why we won tonight.”
The Blackhawks still haven’t played their best hockey yet this series but Sunday was better. Coach Joel Quenneville called their second period “our best of the series.” The Blackhawks have a chance to close out another series on Tuesday. They’re trending in the right direction, one greasy, ugly goal at a time.
“Today it wasn’t pretty; lots of grinding out there,” Hossa said. “The most important thing is we found a way to win."