ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks said they recognized the urgency thrown at them after a poor Game 3 performance. They had to work harder. They had to be better.
Michal Handzus scored his first goal of the postseason but it was an otherwise forgettable night for the Blackhawks, again, as the Minnesota Wild had its way with them in its 4-2 victory on Friday. The Wild, who held home ice, tie the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 in Chicago on Sunday night.
Jonathan Toews said the Wild outworked the Blackhawks.
“I think it’s reflecting of our intensity. They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We have to do the same,” said Toews. “I don’t really know how to explain it; we have to be better. It’s frustrating to not get a win the last two games on the road. We could have put ourselves in a great spot had we played the way we need to play to try and get a win these last two games. But we didn’t.”
The once potent Blackhawks offense has gone absent in the past two games. Patrick Sharp gone one through Ilya Brayzgalov that never should’ve gotten through Bryzgalov, and Handzus had a good redirect of a Brent Seabrook shot. But it was another otherwise listless offensive night. The Blackhawks were held to just 20 shots; through the first four games of this series the Blackhawks have had shot totals of 22, 22, 19 and 20, respectively. Is it the Wild stifling them or the Blackhawks not doing enough on their end?
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“It was probably a little of both,” Duncan Keith said. “They do a good job playing their system and clogging up certain areas of the ice but there are ways we can work on and talk about to create more offense. We’re going to have to have more shots. I don’t know what we finished with, but I looked up in the second period (at one point) and we had nine shots. We have to create more.”
They also can’t be giving up what they did on the other end. The Wild got 31 shots on the Blackhawks, who struggled with puck possession and turnovers in their own zone. Corey Crawford, who finished the first-round series looking good, looked anything but on Friday night in allowing four on those 31 shots.
“I didn’t like our first three,” coach Joel Quenneville said of those Crawford allowed. “They fed off the crowd. Those goals we gave up, we lost a lot of energy. They’re good in their building and they check well, so it’s tough to get momentum in here. The couple of times we had it, we didn’t get to stabilize it.”
The Blackhawks have tried a few different line combinations now. The bottom line is, there haven’t been many good performances, regardless of who’s playing with whom. The Wild have been outworking the Blackhawks, taking advantage of opportunities and, when Crawford has struggled, the Wild have kept shooting. After Bryzgalov gave up that bad one to Sharp late in the first period, the Blackhawks did not press the point to start the second. They had nine shots, total, that period.
The trip to Minnesota has been a boon for the home team, a bane for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Now the Blackhawks need to find a way to forget about these last two games and get their game back.
“A real short memory and remind ourselves of how good we can be in our building,” Toews said about getting past this. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy. There’s going to be some moments where your stomach drops and you’re not feeling like everything is going your way. That’s the way it goes. You have to find a way to battle through that and create something out of nothing, especially in this building when it’s loud. They’re playing with energy. Everywhere you look they seem to be there. They’re checking you. You have to find a way through that. When you work hard enough, people are going to get lucky.”