Bryan Bickell was so sure he scored on his 2-on-1 with Jonathan Toews late in the third period.
“Yep, I did,” said Bickell on that shot, which clanged off the crossbar. “I raised my hand and I was yelling at the referee and then he said, ‘No.’ Then Pierre (McGuire) said, ‘No,’ and I said, ‘Oh, shoot.’”
Just one minute, 54 seconds later Bickell was on a 2-on-1 again. He shot again. And this time, he did score.
Bickell had a goal and two assists, and Brandon Saad’s first goal in 19 games proved to be the game-winner as the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 4-1, in Game 2 of their second-round series on Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks take a 2-0 series lead to Minnesota, where Game 3 will be played Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.
Saad had a two-goal day, while Marian Hossa finished with three assists. Jonathan Toews scored his fourth goal of the season, and Niklas Hjalmarsson had two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 18 of 19 for the Blackhawks, who have now won six in a row after losing their two first-round games to the St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks were without Andrew Shaw (apparent right-leg injury) for this one, while Kris Versteeg got back into the lineup. Jeremy Morin played in his first career NHL postseason game, but Brandon Bollig was a healthy scratch for the first time this regular season or postseason.
This was another outing that was close for the most part, with the Blackhawks breaking through for two late goals.
Also, the Blackhawks weren’t on their heels as much today as they were on Friday, when the Wild dominated the second period and outshot them, 17-3. On Sunday, they countered the Wild’s push better.
“We were much better overall, all three periods for us” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We were better in all areas, all periods today.”
The Blackhawks jumped out to another first-period lead. Hossa broke away for a shot that was stopped by Ilya Bryzgalov, but Toews came in to score behind the Wild goaltender for a 1-0 advantage 11 minutes into the game.
Saad, meanwhile, couldn’t have picked a better time to break out of his slump. Just two seconds after the Blackhawks quietly ended their second power play, Saad skated to the slot and scored for a 2-0 advantage.
Still, the Wild were once again pesky and determined not to go away quietly. Cody McCormick scored his first of the postseason to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 2-1 just two minutes into the third period.
“They’re a patient team and they play well defensively. Sometimes when they do that, you get frustrated and they counter attack,” Saad said. “They’re a good rush team and score goals and it’s there before you know it. Just stick to the game plan and keep bringing the pace and playing well. It’s something you have to do consistently.”
Sunday, however, would be it for the attempted Wild comeback. Bickell’s second 2-on-1 scoring opportunity proved productive, and Saad added an empty-net goal with 1:23 remaining in regulation.
The Blackhawks head to Minnesota with a nice 2-0 series lead and a lot of confidence in their game. They’re hardly in the driver’s seat; as we wrote above, both games were close until the final few minutes of regulation. Still, they’re feeling good about where they’re at right now, and the momentum they’re riding to St. Paul.
“We’re still taking it one game at a time,” Toews said. “You go into every game planning to win; sometimes that goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. We’ll just continue the way we have. We’ll have a real challenge coming up on the road. It’s going to have to be our best game of the series, for sure.”