The Chicago Blackhawks were being outplayed, despite holding a 2-0 lead. Early in the third, the Minnesota Wild turned that solid game into a 2-2 tie, as uneasiness settled through the United Center crowd.
The Blackhawks needed a big-time play. And they got it from a big-time player.
Patrick Kane scored two goals, including a backhand shot that proved to be the game-winner, and Corey Crawford stopped 30 of 32 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-2 in Game 1 of their second-round series on Friday night. Game 2 will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
There was a loss, however. Andrew Shaw left the game with what appeared to be a right-leg injury in the first period and did not return. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will know more on Saturday, but listed Shaw as day-to-day after the game.
Kane and Bickell each scored twice while Marian Hossa had a goal and two assists for the Blackhawks. Kris Versteeg was once again a late scratch, replaced by Joakim Nordstrom.
The Blackhawks were looking for a lift after the Wild tied it on Kyle Brodziak’s goal almost seven minutes into the third period. Kane provided it, scoring just one minute, 26 seconds later with a sweet shot that beat Ilya Bryzgalov high.
“It was a good play by Sharp to throw it over to my side,” Kane said. “I had some time and space so I tried to cut through the middle. It was one of those plays where I was about to drop it to (Sharp) but I saw both defensemen kind of go to him so I just tried to get in on the backhand and made a good shot and it went in. It’s a good feeling.”
The final score belied how close this one really was. Despite a 2-0 advantage built on power play goals by Bickell and Hossa, the Blackhawks were outplayed throughout the second period and early in the third. The Wild outshot them 17-3 in the second period. The difference was a solid penalty kill and Crawford, who was stellar in turning the Wild away throughout those 20 minutes.
“Corey, to me, led the charge as far as why we own the game and special teams were a big part of it,” Quenneville said. “We had a couple nice plays to seal it, but not much in between we can talk about that was getting us excited.”
Indeed, and the Wild tying it up didn’t make the Blackhawks too happy, either. Clayton Stoner was credited with a goal that the Blackhawks nearly stopped. The puck trickled through Crawford and Johnny Oduya tried to clear it, but it hit Crawford and caromed back off Oduya’s skate and into the net. About five minutes later, Brodziak netted his third of the postseason.
Then came Kane.
“Kaner scored one of those goals that not many guys in the league could try or get done,” Quenneville said. “Here we are, it’s 2-2, there’s a lot of hockey left, but it was a good response.”
The Blackhawks had the appropriate response after the Wild gave them a scare. They talked heading into this series that they knew Minnesota was a different team this season; the Wild reminded them of that for 20-plus minutes. The Blackhawks had the right answers from the right players, but they know they have to be better than they were in Game 1.
“They’re a good team, and they showed it all game tonight,” Ben Smith said. “They make plays and they turn pucks over and they go right on the attack. So maybe we weathered the storm a bit tonight, but we were able to find a way to win.”