ST. PAUL, Minn. – Duncan Keith didn’t mince words.
The defenseman didn’t like what he saw in the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 on Tuesday night. It was understandable; after playing two decent games in which late finishes pushed them ahead of the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks were missing that “killer instinct.”
Erik Haula scored the game-winning goal just 1:41 into the third period and Mikael Granlund scored twice as the Wild blanked the Blackhawks 4-0 at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 entering Game 4, which will be 8:30 p.m. CT on Friday.
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Keith called the loss “frustrating.”
“We didn’t have that killer instinct tonight that we’re going to need,” he said. “They got one early (in the third), they got the momentum and they just kept going from there. We hung around a couple periods where we were kind of waiting to see what would happen.”
Niklas Hjalmarsson, unable to speak after taking a puck to his throat in the Blackhawks’ Game 2 victory, played just over 17 minutes and blocked four shots. There was, however, another lineup surprise: Nick Leddy, who played all 82 regular-season games and the first eight postseason contests, was a scratch. Coach Joel Quenneville, who said earlier on Tuesday that he was looking for more “pace” to Leddy’s game, said after the game that it was more about giving Sheldon Brookbank a chance.
[WATCH: Collective "team" loss in Game 3]
“He came in vs. St. Louis and deserved the chance to play, gives us a presence physically and I thought he played well,” Quenneville said of Brookbank, who played just over 12 minutes.
The Blackhawks, whose six-game winning streak was snapped, have now lost the first road game in nine consecutive playoff series.
“I know you guys want to talk about that, but to us it’s nothing,” Jonathan Toews said. “You go into every game, like I’ve said before, planning on winning and you look at a certain stat and it stands out to you, so be it. To us it doesn’t matter. We knew we had to play better than we did today. We’re still looking for that type of game we know how to play; we just haven’t brought it yet.”
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There wasn’t much wiggle room through two periods, as it was more of a war of attrition than of sustained zone time and multiple scoring opportunities. Shots through 40 minutes were 15-10 Blackhawks. Finally, in the third, the Wild broke through and didn’t stop.
Quenneville said he “didn’t mind” the first 40 minutes.
“Scoring first, obviously, was a big difference,” he said. “It got the crowd electrified. We had the start we were looking for, we played the right way but there’s not a lot of time and space. The more plays you try to make, it ends up in your net. That was kind of the result of one or two goals, anyway.”
Bottom line is, the Blackhawks had too many turnovers, too much sloppiness and didn’t attack the Wild and Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped all 19 shots he saw, as much as necessary. The Blackhawks’ biggest pushes came once they were down a few goals, but the Wild kept adding more. Zach Parise’s goal was his fourth of the postseason, and Granlund’s empty-net goal capped it late in regulation.
“We started playing the way we could when we went down two goals to none. It’s still a little frustrating trying to understand why that is,” Jonathan Toews said. “I guess that’s part of their game plan. They want to try and take away our speed, take away our pace of play and keep us under 20 shots. So we’ve got to just find a way around that. We’ve got to play with more energy and we’ll take the next couple days to think about it and do better Friday.”
The Wild got the boost they needed with a third period in which they scored more goals than they did the first two games (three) of this series. The Blackhawks didn’t like much of what they did on Tuesday night. They’ve got two days to think about it, or forget about it, and move on from it.
”You (don’t) necessarily shrug it off but you let it go somehow,” Keith said. “It’s frustrating right now after the game but at the end of the day we have to be better. We all know that, so it’s just a matter of doing it.”