Updated: 05/12/2014 12:38 PM
Created: 05/11/2014 8:07 PM KSTP.com
By: KSTP Sports
This time, it was hard work for the Chicago Blackhawks. No pretty goals on this night, just get to the front of the net and fight for a chance.
Pushed, poked and prodded by the Minnesota Wild, Jonathan Toews and Co. found a way.
Toews had a tough rebound goal early in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Wild 2-1 on Sunday to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
"The whole game, the whole series has been very tight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Still not a lot of room and space, but that's what we've got to fight through. I thought we showed more determination in the puck area tonight."
Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as Chicago bounced back from consecutive losses in Minnesota that handed the momentum to the Wild heading into Game 5.
But the Blackhawks were back at the United Center, where they improved to 6-0 in this postseason and 17-2 over the past two playoffs.
"As the game went on, we found ways to play better as a five-man unit," Toews said. "Once one line would generate a good shift and get us some energy, the next line would follow it right up. I think that's when we're an effective team, when we have four lines going like that and contributing."
Erik Haula scored in the first period for the Wild, and Ilya Bryzgalov had 26 stops. Minnesota became the first team to score first in the second round of the NHL playoffs and lose, dropping that record to 19-1, according to STATS.
"We tried to hang on to something we wanted to have happen and we fell victim to it," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Minnesota, where the Wild are undefeated in this postseason.
Minnesota had a chance to grab the lead in the third but Crawford made a nice kick save on Cody McCormick about 2½ minutes into the period. He also had a solid glove stop on Ryan Suter with the Blackhawks clinging to a 2-1 lead with 4:38 to go.
"We just need a better effort," Wild star Zach Parise said. "Not that it was terrible. I mean, we had our chance to win at the end of the game. We did some things really well. But I think we can be better, and we know we can be better."
Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp combined to put Chicago in front 4½ minutes into the third. Hossa sent the puck in front to Toews at the right post. The captain was stopped by Bryzgalov, but he managed to slam home a backhand for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
"It was an ugly goal," said Toews, who also had a big hit on Wild forward Mikael Granlund right before he scored. "As a line we were playing well and looking to find a way to score. I happened to get an ugly one on the side."
The first period looked similar to much of the past two games in Minnesota, with the Wild using their speed and checking ability to shut down Chicago's high-powered attack. The Wild also outworked the defending Stanley Cup champions early on as Quenneville tried several line combinations looking for a spark.
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was whistled for tripping just 29 seconds into the game, and Granlund sent an open look off the outside of the right post on the ensuing power play.
A terrific individual effort by Haula put Minnesota in front at 16:33 of the first. He drove through the Chicago zone and kept moving after his first try was stopped by Crawford, flipping a backhand into the net for his third goal of the postseason.
Chicago started to generate more chances in the second, but most of its early shots came from outside and Bryzgalov gobbled them up easily. Marcus Kruger sent a pass through the Minnesota crease, but no one was there for the Blackhawks.
It took a well-timed dash by a seldom-used role player to set up Chicago's third goal in the past three games. Playing for the first time since April 12, Peter Regin drove to the net to draw a hooking penalty on Jonas Brodin.
Regin was active for the first time in the playoffs after the Blackhawks scratched Andrew Shaw with a lower-body injury, and Brandon Bollig sat out with a two-game suspension for boarding Wild defenseman Keith Ballard in Game 4.
On the ensuing power play, Patrick Kane's slap shot went off Bickell's left leg and past Bryzgalov to make it 1-1 at 9:18 of the second. It was Bickell's sixth goal of the playoffs.
NOTES: Game 7 would be Thursday in Chicago. ... The Wild played without Ballard (upper-body injury) and forward Matt Moulson (lower-body injury). ... Blackhawks D Michal Rozsival was scratched after he struggled in Game 4. D Sheldon Brookbank and F Kris Versteeg returned to Chicago's lineup.
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KSTP Sports' Period-By-Period recaps:
END THIRD PERIOD: Minnesota 1, Chicago 2
Scoring: Toews (5)
Shots: 14 (28 total); CHI - 7 (28)
Power Play: MIN - 0/0 (0/1); CHI - 0/0 (1/2)
The Wild generated the first several shots of the period - two coming directly as a result of Kyle Brodziak steals. He set up Cody McCormick right in front of Corey Crawford, but he couldn't convert. Nino Neiderreiter failed on a strong chance shortly after.
After Jonathan Toews delivered a crushing check while forechecking Mikael Granlund, the puck landed with Patrick Sharp in the left faceoff circle. His wrist-shot deflected off a couple Wild players before falling back to Toews on the right post. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped Toews first chance at stuffing the puck in, but the Blackhawks captain got the puck through on the second chance putting Chicago up 2-1 with 15:27 left in the game.
Chicago maintained momentum after the goal, continuing to pressure the Wild zone.
The Wild began to push back as the period reached its midpoint. Granlund tested Crawford with a quick shot of a change of possession in the Blackhawks defensive end.
For the next few minutes, each team managed a few shots - a sharp Jason Pominville backhander gave Crawford a good challenge - but neither team maintained an upper hand.
With five to go, Crawford made his best save of the night using his glove to snare a firm Ryan Suter shot from the point.
The Wild controlled possession late, taking the final five shots of the game.
As the final horn neared, the Wild managed to force a couple loose-puck situations in the Blackhawks crease - but were unable to shove the puck into the net.
Chicago hangs on to win 2-1, taking a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6 will be Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Wild face elimination, needing a win to force a decisive seventh game back in Chicago on Thursday night.
END SECOND PERIOD: Minnesota 1, Chicago 1
Shots: 6 (14 total); CHI - 15 (21)
Power Play: MIN - 0/0 (0/1); CHI - 1/1 (1/2)
The Blackhawks bore down on Ilya Bryzgalov twice in the early going of the second period. Marian Hossa's shot two minutes in nearly sneaked by, but Bryzgalov managed to get enough of his left pad on the puck to smother it.
Chicago tested Bryzgalov often in the first five minutes of the period, outshooting the Wild 7-1.
Jonas Brodin made an outstanding one-on-one play to prevent Bryan Bickell from converting an odd man rush into the Wild zone.
Chicago kept firing pucks in on Bryzgalov, and earned a golden opportiunity when Brodin was sent off for a hook 8:35 in.
Bickell tipped Patrick Kane's shot past Bryzgalov to get the Blackhawks on the board with a power play tally 9:18 into the period, tying the game 1-1.
Back-and-forth action carried through much of the later part of the period. Zach Parise had a pair of close-in chances that he was unable to get past Corey Crawford.
Bryzgalov was nearly fooled late in the period by a fluke deflection that came in on him from center ice, but turned it aside at the last possible moment.
He also turned aside an in-close backhander from Jonathan Toews in the final seconds.
Just as the Wild controlled the first period but only managed one goal, it was vice versa in the second - with Chicago putting Minnesota o their heels, but only beating Bryzgalov once.
Things are all even at 1-1 in the game and 2-2 in the series as they head to the third period of Game 5.
END FIRST PERIOD: Minnesota 1, Chicago 0
Scoring: Haula (3)
Shots: MIN - 8; CHI - 6
Power Play: MIN - 0/1; CHI - 0/1
Chicago took a penalty 29-second into the game when Brent Seabrook was called for tripping as he stuck his skate out and clipped Nino Neiderreiter's leg.
Zach Parise had a good scoring chance early in the man advantage, and the Mikael Granlund hit the post with a shot late, but the Blackhawks managed to kill the power play.
Ilya Bryzgalov skated well out of his crease to glove a shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson, who registered Chicago's first solid look of the game.
Corey Crawford denied chances from Justin Fontaine and Matt Cooke around the six-minute mark of the period, as the action maintained a very high pace.
End-to-end action continued through the midpoint of the period without generating many chances for either team.
After the Wild controlled much of the action in the first half of the period, Chicago began to turn the tide with around eight minutes to go.
Duncan Keith narrowly missed a point-blank chance and Bryzgalov stoned Brandon Saad on the doorstep just before Clayton Stoner was whistled for a hooking penalty.
Chicago struggled to gain the zone in the first half of the power play, and couldn't manage a shot even after holding possession in the Wild zone for the second half - as the Wild killed the man advantage.
Erik Haula pushed the puck up the right wing boards using blazing speed to shake a pair of Blackhawks defenders. Entering the zone, Haula cut inside and unleashed a shot. Crawford made the initial save, but Haula poked the rebound back into Crawford's pads. The puck flipped into the air, over Crawford and fluttered into the next for a 1-0 Wild lead with 3:27 left in the period.
Bryzgalov and the Wild defense weathered a strong flurry and some confusion in front of their net with 1:36 to go.
The Wild maintained their shutout through the period, and hit the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will break their 2-2 series stalemate tonight in Game 5 at United Center in Chicago.
With a win, the Wild would carry a 3-2 series lead back home to the Xcel Energy Center for Game Six on Tuesday night. It would be the first time in franchise history the Wild would play a home game with a playoff series lead.
It would also give the Wild a chance to clinch a playoff series at home for the first time in team history.
After Chicago won the first two games of the series, the Wild followed suit by taking games three and four in Saint Paul.
The Wild are 5-0 at home this postseason, but 1-5 thus far on the road. The lone win was the decisive seventh game that clinched their opening series win over Colorado.
The Wild will skate without Keith Ballard in Game 5, out after he was boarded by Chicago's Brandon Bollig, who is serving a two-game suspension for the hit.