May 7, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise (11) carries the puck past Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) and defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) during the first period in game four of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota tried to play physical against the Hawks, including Cal Clutterbuck destroying Brent Seabrook. The Wild had the better part of the play in the first period, and led until puck possession, until Marian Hossa picked off the Wild, and dished a sweet set up to Michal Handzus, who’s shot was tipped in by Patrick Sharp for a 1-0 Hawks lead. The wild couldn’t maintain the aggressive style like they did in game 3. The first period stayed back-and-forth until Jonathan Toews rushed the net and bowled into Josh Harding. Harding was very slow to get up, and stalled play while he was worked on by the trainer. This could have been considered the turning point in the game.
The second frame started like a dream for the Blackhawks. Josh Harding left the game, and Darcy Kuemper started in-between the pipes for the rest of the game. Not too long after that, (1:02 to be exact) Sharp snapped an unassisted wrist shot to make it 2-0 Hawks. What impressed spectators the most came throughout the rest of the second; a defensive shutdown by the Hawks, and a good one. On two Wild powerplays, the Blackhawks allowed no chances, with only a shot coming through on each. The Hawks were in all the shooting lanes, and a good stick to break up passes was almost always there. When the defense could not get there, Corey Crawford was solid, sucking up rebounds, and seeing each shot the whole way through. The Hawks skated into the locker room leading in shots, hits, and most importantly, goals, 2-0.
It wasn’t the start of the final frame that Joel Quenneville was looking for, but the Blackhawks persevered through two straight penalties, a Kane Delay-Of-Game, and Saad Tripping. The Blackhawks rejected every chance just as they did in the previous 20, and it took the wind out of the Minnesota sails. Midway through the third, Charlie Coyle got into a collision with Marcus Kruger, and Kruger was very shaken and took his time getting to the bench which was only a few feet away. The Blackhawks headed to their second powerplay of the game, where they garnered a few shots, but lacked any urgency, as they just contained the wild… well…. Wild. Bryan Bickell struck the dagger into the hears of all Minnesotans, when he spun and scored from a weird angle, which was the second unassisted goal of the game, and that made it 3-0. The Blackhawks looked well on their way to taking the 3-1 series lead, as Chicago started slowly shutting down the Wild, and by the end of the game, Wild fans lost faith in the team.
Corey Crawford played great, and grabbed his second career post-season shutout. With excellent play from daddy-Duncan Keith, (led the game in ice time) and the Blackhawks top two lines, notably Patrick Sharp, the Hawks looked great, and did not allow the Wild to skate with them, even on the power-play, where Minnesota went 0-for-6, and only had five shots. Tonight’s play from the Blackhawks looked worthy of a Conference Finals game, and that is what Hawks fans like to see, and what Wild fans dread.
The Blackhawks will try to finish off the series on Thursday back home at the United Center.
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