It may have only been Game Two of the second-round series between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, but there was plenty on the line. As hard enough as it is to take down the Blackhawks, the Wild were attempting to win at the United Center in the playoffs for the first time in the past three years. Historically, when the Blackhawks move to 2-0 in a series, they have gone on to win the series 19 of 20 times.
The Blackhawks, who have gone 23-4 at the United Center since the start of the 2013 playoffs, seemed to feed off their fans early. The game’s first good chance came off the stick of the Game One hero, Teuvo Teravainen. The Blackhawks forced the Wild to several icings in the first 10 minutes of play.
Corey Crawford (and his killer brand-new mask) got his first action at the mid-way point in the first period, making a pair of huge saves on Tomas Vanek. Vanek’s frustration got the better of him on that play, and headed to the box for Goalie Interference right after shoving the Blackhawks’ goalie.
The Wild would kill the penalty off, and took a temporary lead in shots, which were hard to come by in the game’s first period.
The horn sounded to end the first frame before anyone could find the net, and the Blackhawks held the early advantage in shots, 9-6.
After a sleepy first period, both teams livened up and some back-and-forth action ensued. The Blackhawks had the first few chances of the second period, but Chris Stewart came the closest of anyone through the first half.
Stewart took advantage of a mis-played puck by Brent Seabrook, and busted his way to the Blackhawks’ net, only to have the play broken up by Johnny Oduya. Both players went hard into the end boards, and Stewart got the worst of it, leaving the game immediately after, as he skated to the bench clutching his shoulder.
The Blackhawks came back with a good chance of their own, courtesy of Andrew Shaw in front of the Wild net, but his fiestiness earned him a two-minute stay in the penalty box for cross-checking.
The Wild own the best power-play unit in the playoffs, but on the Shaw penalty, it would be the Blackhawks finding some offense.
Marian Hossa stripped the puck from Ryan Suter on the wall, and on a two-on-none with Jonathan Toews, the pass across the slot was inevitable. Toews’ shot found its mark, and after tipping off of Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder, and then the shaft of his stick, it barely crossed the line, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal.
The Wild wouldn’t rest on their laurels, nonetheless, and it was Corey Crawford that shone in the minutes that followed the Toews’ goal. All 21,834 were on their feet during a T.V. timeout, after Crawford made a pair of beautiful pad saves to keep the Wild off the board.
With the second period winding down, Patrick Kane wasn’t ready for the intermission. After a great lead pass from Duncan Keith, Kane spun over the blue-line, and fired a shot post-in for his fourth of the post-season, extending the Blackhawks’ lead to 2-0. After two periods, the Blackhawks also held a 21-16 lead in shots.
With Michal Rozsival sitting in the box after taking an interference penalty with 2 seconds left in the second period, the Wild got on the board early in the final frame. Matt Dumba fired a shot from the wall that just got over the shoulder of Crawford and under the crossbar, cutting the Blackhawks’ lead to 1.
The Blackhawks found themselves on the power-play soon after, but again, it was to no avail. However, the ‘Hawks would find the net again just moments after the penalty expired.
After a sloppy change by the Wild, Teuvo Teravainen made a brilliant bank pass past Jordan Leopold, sending Patrick Sharp in on goal. Like Kane did before him, Sharp fired a wrist shot far-side, restoring the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Marco Scandella put a scare in Blackhawks’ fans with 6 minutes remaining in the third, as his slap-shot hit Corey Crawford head-on in the mask. Luckily, the only casualty was Crawford’s aforementioned sweet new mask, and #50 stayed in the game, donning his old while helmet after a commercial break.
The Wild pulled Dubnyk with just over two minutes remaining, and after weaving his way through the neutral zone, Kane cashed in on the empty-net for his second of the game.
That was more than the ‘Hawks needed on Sunday night, as they expired the remaining time, and cruised to a 4-1 Game Two win, taking a 2-0 series lead.
Corey Crawford won the battle of the goaltenders in Game Two, after stopping 30 of 31 shots for a .968% save percentage. Devan Dubnyk gave up three goals on 30 shots for a .900% save percentage.
Though the Blackhawks had plenty of offense five-on-five (and shorthanded), they went 0-for-2 on the power-play on Sunday night. In their past six games, they are now 1-for-16.
Kane’s second-period goal was also his 100th career playoff point, becoming the fifth person to do so in a Blackhawks’ sweater. After the empty-netter, he is now 12th among active players in playoff scoring, tying and passing Joe Thornton in this game.
Though Bryan Bickell didn’t find the score-sheet in Game Two, he remained effective against the Wild in the playoffs, with 12 hits. The next closest player; Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle, with 7.
Duncan Keith recorded the most time-on-ice in the game, playing over half the game finishing at 30:12. Minnesota’s Ryan Suter was next, with 28:03.
The Blackhawks improved to 3-0 in the 2015 playoffs while holding a lead after two periods. They were 25-0-0 in that situation in the regular season, and combined, it is a NHL record.
The Wild lost in regulation twice in a row for the first time since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, a span of three months and 21 days.
The series now heads to the State Of Hockey for the next two games, as the Wild try to climb back into the series on their home ice. Puck drop for Game Three is at 7:00 PM Central Time on Tuesday, May 5.
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