Part of the reason the Chicago Blackhawks have been successful over the last seven years is because they have so many top end forwards. How can you silence a team led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa? The Minnesota Wild didn’t have the answer to that question tonight. Instead, they suffered a 4-1 loss to Chicago.
To Minnesota’s credit, the squad did hold its own defensively in the first half of the game. It took a great sequence by Hossa and Toews to break the scoreless tie at 12:28 of the second period, and even then the goal partially went in because Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk was the victim of some bad puck luck.
Minnesota might have been able to recover from that, but Kane made it 2-0 with roughly 20 seconds left in the second frame. Chicago hasn’t lost a contest in the regular season or playoffs when leading after 40 minutes and tonight was no exception.
Minnesota’s Matt Dumba made things interesting with a high shot that beat goaltender Corey Crawford, but Sharp was able to regain Chicago’s two-goal edge:
Kane helped himself to the empty netter to bring him up to five goals and 10 points in eight playoff games. He also has 101 points in 101 career postseason contests.
Minnesota was eliminated by Chicago in 2013 and 2014. The Wild were naturally hoping that this year would be different, but after falling behind 2-0 in the second round series, they have a very tough road ahead of them.
The Minnesota Wild couldn’t fully complete the comeback against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, losing Game 1 of this second-round series.
“They came out flying and we weren’t really up to speed. Finally in the second period we got playing the way were capable of,” Ryan Suter told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
It’s one loss. The Wild has been in much more dire situations, like the one that clouded over that team in January.
A late second-period goal from Teuvo Teravainen — his first career playoff goal — proved to be the winner in this series opener for Chicago, after the Wild got back into the game, erasing a three-goal deficit from the first period.
“If you want to ask, we’re not rattled right now,” said Wild head coach Mike Yeo, as per Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.
It could be that these two teams are digging in for a long series. The Wild has left an impression on the Blackhawks.
“They’re a really good hockey team. You can just feel that out there. They’re just after you like crazy,” Blackhawks Niklas Hjalmarsson told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
And it could be this series comes down to goaltending, between Devan Dubnyk and Corey Crawford.
Minnesota forward Justin Fontaine left the game midway through the second period and did not return.
Jason Pominville might lose sleep over this one.
Late in the third period, with the Minnesota Wild pressing for the tying goal to send Game 1 into overtime, the puck took a fortuitous bounce off the end glass and eventually found its way to Pominville in a prime shooting location. But the puck was rolling, and Pominville sent his shot well wide of the net, with goalie Corey Crawford beat.
The host Chicago Blackhawks held on from there for the 4-3 victory and a 1-0 series lead over the Wild.
Earlier on, it looked like this game might turn into a blowout. The Blackhawks, in front of their home crowd, erupted to beat Devan Dubnyk three times on eight shots, taking a 3-0 lead into the intermission.
But the Wild battled back. Jason Zucker, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund scored within a span of 9:30 into the middle period, getting Minnesota back into a tie game. Dubnyk did his part, making a spectacular save on Patrick Sharp to ensure the Wild didn’t fall further behind when still trailing by two.
However, Teuvo Teravainen’s first career playoff goal — a wrist shot from the side boards that got by Dubnyk — with under a minute remaining in that frantic second period stood as the winner.
A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…
Lightning at Canadiens, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN
Montreal swept Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, but this year’s series might be different. Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov took big steps forward in 2014-15 to give the Lightning more offensive depth and goaltender Ben Bishop is healthy this time around. That being said, the player to watch tonight will be Lightning captain Steven Stamkos after he failed to score a goal in the first round.
Wild at Blackhawks, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
This is the third year in a row Chicago will face Minnesota in the playoffs. The Blackhawks won the last two series, but as is the case with the Lightning, there are reasons for the Wild to think this year might be different. For Minnesota, the single biggest change is goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Since acquiring him on Jan. 14, Minnesota has been one of the best teams in the league. Dubnyk posted a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 39 regular season contests with the Wild. He allowed six goals against the Blues in Game 4, but was far more hit than miss in that series and can be credited as one of the reasons Minnesota advanced. Corey Crawford, who temporarily lost the starting gig to Scott Darling due to Crawford’s rough start to the first round, will play between the pipes in Game 1.
The Chicago Blackhawks have made a goaltending change.
On Monday, head coach Joel Quenneville announced that Corey Crawford would be the Game 1 starter when Chicago opens its second-round series against the Wild. The development comes after a tumultuous series against Nashville, in which Crawford opened as the starter, lost his gig to backup Scott Darling, then reclaimed the No. 1 job in the deciding Game 6 — after Darling was yanked following three goals allowed on 12 shots.
“It’s his net,” Quenneville said of Crawford, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “Let’s go.”
Part of Q’s decision to go back to Crawford could stem from last year’s second-round win over Minnesota, in which the veteran netminder played very well. Crawford stopped 150 of 162 shots faced in the six-game victory — a solid .926 save percentage — and was at his very best in the final two games, allowing just two goals on 67 shots (Chicago won both by 2-1 scores.)
It’s also possible some of Darling’s weaknesses were exposed as the Nashville series progressed. While he started brilliantly, stopping 127 of 131 shots, Darling proceeded to allow seven goals on 40 shots over his final two appearances.