Updated: 05/05/2014 6:07 AM
Created: 05/04/2014 7:40 AM KSTP.com
By: Nick Tabbert
Bryan Bickell had a goal and two assists, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4 -1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Brandon Saad scored his first two goals of the postseason, and Chicago earned its sixth consecutive win despite stretches of lackluster play in the second and third periods. Corey Crawford made 18 saves in another solid performance.
Cody McCormick scored his second career playoff goal, but Minnesota missed another chance to steal home-ice advantage from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The series opener was tied at 2 in the third period before Patrick Kane scored two of Chicago's final three goals in a 5-2 victory on Friday night.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Minnesota.
Clayton Stoner and Erik Haula made nice passed to set up McCormick's first playoff goal in three years 2 minutes into the third, trimming Chicago's lead to 2-1. Crawford then batted a potential tying shot from Charlie Coyle over the crossbar.
The Blackhawks eventually regained their composure and turned up the pressure again. Bickell shot the puck off the crossbar on a break with 4:39 to go.
Given a second chance, the physical forward delivered. Marian Hossa and Bickell got loose on another break, and Bickell buried his shot into the upper right corner to extend Chicago's lead to 3-1 at 17:15.
Saad added an empty-net goal as the Blackhawks improved to 16-2 in home playoff games over the last two years. They are 5-0 at the United Center in this postseason.
Chicago played without forward Andrew Shaw, who was out with a lower-body injury. Shaw left the series opener after he was hit hard by Stoner in the first period. He appeared to favor his right side as he made his way off the ice.
Shaw, who had 19 goals and 20 assists in the regular season, is expected to travel with the team to Minnesota. Wild coach Joel Quenneville said he likely would be able to play in Game 3.
Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead for the second straight game. Jonathan Toews scored a rebound goal after goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped Hossa on a breakaway in the first, and Saad sent a shot over Bryzgalov's right shoulder right after a power play expired in the second.
Haula had a great scoring opportunity on the right side of the net after Crawford lost track of the puck in the first. But Ben Smith got back, and Haula put a drive off the side of the net.
The Wild failed to convert on their only power play after going 0 for 3 with the man advantage in the opener. They went 0 for 17 on the power play when they were eliminated by the Blackhawks in five games in 2013.
NOTES: Blackhawks F Brandon Bollig was a healthy scratch after he played in every previous game this season. F Kris Versteeg was back after he was scratched the previous two games, and F Jeremy Morin made his playoff debut. ... Minnesota F Justin Fontaine saw his first action since the Wild's 5-2 victory against Colorado in Game 6 of their first-round series. Stephane Veilleux was among the scratches after he played almost nine minutes in the series opener against Chicago.
(Copyright The Associated Press.)
Period by Period Summaries:
End of Third Period: Chicago 4, Minnesota 1
Scoring: MIN - Cody McCormick (1), CHI - Bryan Bickell (5), Saad (2)
Shots: MIN - 4 (19), CHI - 7 (22)
Power Play: MIN - 0/0 (0/1), CHI - 0/0 (0/2)
Minnesota came out strong in the third period and was rewarded with a Cody McCormick goal two minutes in. The Wild trailed 2-0 in the third period of Game 1 and stormed back to tie that game.
With just under three minutes remaining, the Blackhawks all but put the game away when Bryan Bickell scored to make it 3-1.
Minnesota pulled the goalie and paid the price moments later when Saad scored his second goal of the afternoon.
End of Second Period: Chicago 2, Minnesota 0
Scoring: CHI - Brandon Saad (1)
Shots: MIN - 13 (15 total), CHI - 8 (15)
Power Play: MIN - 0/1 (0/1), CHI - 0/1 (0/2)
Minnesota got its first power play chance about halfway through the second period when Chicago's Nick Leddy was called for high-sticking. The Wild failed to convert three shots on goal.
Chicago got another chance with the man advantage seven minutes later after Justin Fontaine was called for hooking. Bryzgalov turned the Blackhawks away again though, and the scored remained 1-0 Chicago for the moment.
Just after the penalty was killed though, Brandon Saad scored on a wrist shot to put Chicago up 2-0 after 40 minutes of play.
End of First Period: Chicago 1, Minnesota 0
Scoring: CHI - Toews (4)
Shots: MIN - 2, CHI - 7
Power Play: MIN - 0/0, CHI - 0/1
The Blackhawks went on the power play just 3:29 into the game after Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner was called for cross-checking. Chicago did not convert on the power play after converting two of four chances in Game 1.
Chicago scored first when captain Jonathan Toews scored his fourth goal of the playoffs with 8:58 to play in the first period. Marian Hossa got behind the defense and had a breakaway opportunity, but was denied by Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Toews was in the right place to grab the rebound and put it into the wide open net.
The Blackhawks are 5-0 this postseason when scoring first. The Wild are 1-3.
Patrick Kane scored two goals for Chicago in the third period of Friday's Game 1, including a terrific dash through the Minnesota zone for the tiebreaking score, as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-2.
The Wild know they will need to stop Kane in order to pull out a win Sunday. Chicago's winger was sidelined the last ten games of the regular season with a lower body injury. He came back on the scene with three goals and three assists in the team's series against the St. Louis Blues.
Now, he seems to be back hitting his stride against the Wild.
On Saturday, Minnesota's coach Mike Yeo said the team will need to pay attention to delivering on the "little things" to turn a good game into a great game.
Minnesota also faces another roadblock with Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. Despite the Wild outshooting the Blackhawks on Friday night, the fact that they were unable to outscore is reflected in the goaltending.
Nino Niederreiter, whose overtime goal against the Denver Avalanche in Game 7 last week sent the Wild to Chicago, said the team needs to focus on quality shots.
"We have to get more traffic in front of Crawford," Niederreiter said.
The Wild have been hampered by goalies on the IR list. Starter Darcy Kuemper is likely not to return to the lineup soon as he did not travel with the team to Chicago. He was knocked behind the net during Game 7 at Denver.
With Kuemper leaving the game, Shorewood native John Curry was called to Minnesota's bench. Curry signed a two-way, one year contract with the team and its AHL affiliate in Iowa in February.
The Wild now rely on Ilya Bryzgalov and Curry to tend the goal.
Minnesota goalie Josh Harding, who is battling a nervous system disease, has not played a game since Dec. 31. The Wild's starter for the first three months of the season has appeared during skates with the team, but has not been in a game.
Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw may be absent from Sunday's lineup with a lower body injury.