Wild Finish The Hawks 3-2 IN OT


May 5, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Towels rest on the seats before game three of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks stormed the ice in Minnesota and rushed Josh Harding pelting the Wild goalie with 9 shots in the first half of the first period.  The Hawks didn’t cash in and Viktor Stalberg was called for the first penalty of the game. The Wild had their opportunities but the very reliable Hawks penalty kill was up to the task and killed off the 2 man advantage sending the Wild to a 0-7 powerplay through three games in the series.  The Hawks got on the board right after the penalty when Joel Quenneville sent out Patrick Kane with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.  The move paid off when Kane found a wide open Johnny Oduya and he buried it through a Toews screen.  The Hawks seemed to be in control and then all of a sudden the Wild started fore-checking and the pressure which they have been very reluctant to provide paid off when Pierre-Marc Bouchard put in a nifty backhander over Corey Crawford‘s shoulder to tie the game at 1 with a 1:30 left in the period.  The Wild were very aggressive and the ref’s were letting them get away with it so it how the Hawks responded in the 2nd period would be the real question leading to intermission.

The second period was all Wild! They took it to the Hawks physically and offensively.  The Wild led hits at the end of 2 periods 23-6.  One of the rare games that the team wearing the other sweater were out shooting the Hawks this time with a second period advantage of 14-8.  Harding who was seemingly hurt in warmups on a high shot and then he was hit in the same place during the second period, he looked uncomfortable on the ice but the Hawks were unable to get any offensive pressure on Harding.  The real story of the period was Corey Crawford who was spectacular in the period without giving up anything. What was especially good was Crawford’s rebound control which although the Wild were buzzing were not able to crack Crawford.  The ref’s were letting both teams get too physical after the whistle which led to Oduya getting a late period penalty but the Hawks were able to kill off the 2 minutes and head to the 2nd period intermission tied at 1 with no goals in the period.

The story of the third period was the tremendous amount of pressure the Wild put on the Hawks at the beginning of the period which led to a lot of chances by the Wild. The Wild finally cashed in when Charlie Coyle on an aggressive fore check won the puck and slid it to Zach Parise and what looked like a carbon copy of the Bouchard goal, Parise went top shelf on the back hand to beat Crawford.  You can’t blame Crawford for either goal and he was outstanding stopping 34 shots.  Then for no apparent reason the Wild up 2-1 stepped off the gas pedal around the 8;37 mark and the Blackhawks turned it on.  Duncan Keith made a great spin move midway through the period which seemed to increase his confidence, and then Patrick Kane found Keith on the weak side and he buried the game tying goal with less than four to play.  The Hawks remained very aggressive with a fantastic move and chance by the Captain but Harding was up to the test and the game headed to overtime.

Before you had settled down in your seat overtime was over. Only 2:15 into overtime Jason Zucker from a very bad angle put one short side on Crawford and the game was over.  Just like the Phoenix Coyote series a year ago, Crawford was the best player and the reason the Hawks were able to get the game into overtime only to give up a soft serve goal sponsered by Dairy Queen.  After Crawford’s stop on Pairse in overtime of Game 1 one had to think he had exercised the ghosts, but they only took the next overtime to come back.

The post-game monolgue from the Blackhawks was all on the same page which was Crawford was our best player, which should bode well for Tuesday night’s game in Minnesota.  The Hawks never matched the Wild’s effort Sunday and they will need to bring it Tuesday or this could be a very long series.  The puck drops at 8:30 in Minnesota with the Blackhawks still leading the series 2-1. No team goes 16-0 in the playoffs so there is no reason for panic in the ranks.