To say that this wasn’t how the series was supposed to start is an understatement. The Hawks looked a bit rusty after not playing Saturday in St. Louis, their passing was really horrendous which is something we haven’t seen all season long. It seemed like everything was falling into place for the Hawks before the game started, when Niklas Backstrom was injured in warm-ups and Josh Harding was forced into emergency duty, but the Hawks couldn’t get out of their own way let alone put on a shooting display against Harding. The Wild struck first on the scoreboard when Cal Clutterbuck shot a pretty innocent shot on Corey Crawford who couldn’t stop it from making it into the back of the net for an early 1-0 lead. The Hawks never looked in sync for the entire first period including the first power play which of course led to a short-handed attempt that Crawford was able to turn away. Very late in the period Crawford appeared to have shaken off the playoff butterflies and made a huge glove save on a 2 on 1 chance by the Wild to send it to intermission 1-0 Wild.
After what had to be an unpleasant tongue lashing by Coach Q, the Hawks went on the power play very early in the second period after Zach Parise crashed the net and into Crawford for goalie interference. On the powerplay Patrick Kane made a very nifty pass to Marian Hossa who didn’t miss and tied it up 1-1. After the goal the Wild did their best Nashville Predator impersonation and went to super defensive mode without being very creative offensively. The Hawks without doing much on offense did something unheard of from them and started finishing off checks which included Bryan Bickell leveling Zenon Konopka when he had his head down. The defensive style seemed to cause some frustration when Duncan Keith slashed a Wild player causing the Hawks to kill another penalty which they did very successfully which also ended the period with the score all knotted up at one.
The third period was full of action especially late in the period. Before we could get to the action the Hawks had to fight off a Niklas Hjalmarrson high-sticking penalty where the Wild had some great chances but they couldn’t cash in. The Hawks with pressure in front of Harding had Wild players down and the puck still loose but the refs blew the whistle and the puck found the net for a no goal. During the regular season the refs let plays last forever but this was a very quick whistle. The Hawks defense came to Crawford’s aid when Jason Zucker had an open side of the net but the Hawks defense denied him on his wrap around attempt. The Hawks kept tremendous pressure on the Wild but were never able to crack Harding in the third period. The game headed to overtime which has been the normal for the Hawks in recent history with last year’s Phoenix Coyotes series games going to overtime 5 out of 6 games. One reason the Hawks were having difficulty scoring was the 16 blocked shots in regulation by the Wild.
If it’s the playoffs, the Hawks are playing overtime hockey, and the free hockey wasn’t for the faint of heart. Both sides had chances with both goalies making big saves. The Wild got to go on a power play midway into overtime when Johnny Oduya was called for a high-stick. The Wild didn’t get the entire power play when the Captain made a great hustle play to cancel out the power play. When the Hawks went on the power play they had a minute of time, Marian Hossa had Harding down and out but Ryan Suter got enough of his stick in the way to break up the game winner. With both teams getting gassed, Oduya sent a long stretch pass high off the glass to Viktor Stalberg who gathered the puck for a 2 on 1 and he slid a perfect pass to Bickell who deposited the puck in between Hardings legs for the OT winner!
This wasn’t the way the Hawks wanted to start out the playoffs, but the result is exactly what the Hawks and Crawford needed in game #1. Outstanding effort tonight by Harding in an emergency effort, but in the end the guys with the Indian Head on their jersey finished with one more goal than the Wild in a 2-1 OT victory. There is no style points in the playoff just a race to 16 victories and the Hawks secured their first one tonight in thrilling fashion.
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