Patrick Kane had the puck on his stick, only seconds left in regulation, with a chance to send Game 3 to overtime. He missed, just barely, his shot sliding off the outside of the post.
And from there, the Anaheim Ducks were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks to take Thursday’s game by a final score of 2-1, which now also happens to be Anaheim’s lead in this Western Conference Final.
Sorry, no marathon overtime.
Simon Despres had never scored a Stanley Cup playoff goal before Thursday. His slap shot blast that beat Corey Crawford in the final minute of the second period stood as the winner. Talk about perfect timing.
The Blackhawks had their chances, but couldn’t take advantage.
They had five power play opportunities and were unsuccessful with each and every one of them. They are now 2-for-13 in the series. Their only goals with the advantage were in Game 2.
Chicago’s top players are also struggling to produce offensively so far in this series.
Kane did score late in the opening period for his first goal and point of this series. Jonathan Toews has only one point — an assist in Game 2. Marian Hossa has only one point. Patrick Sharp doesn’t have a point in four games.
It’s something to keep an eye on for Game 4 on Saturday.
The Minnesota Wild went into this series hoping this year would be different. After being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, Minnesota certainly seemed to be in a better position.
The Wild finished the season with a 28-9-3 run. They beat the Central Division winning St. Louis Blues in six games. They had more experience this time around. They weren’t dealing with goaltending injuries. Surely this year would be different.
Chicago forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp played at their typical high level while goaltender Corey Crawford successfully put his rough first round behind him. At the other end of the ice Devan Dubnyk, who got a Vezina Trophy nomination off the strength of his superb second half in 2014-15, couldn’t consistently hold his own against the Blackhawks.
In a last gasp, the Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes of play, but it was too late as their season ended with a 4-3 loss to Chicago. In the end, Marian Hossa’s shorthanded goal on an empty net proved to be the winner. Before that, Kane provided the Blackhawks with a key insurance goal midway through the third period:
Chicago has become the first team to eliminate the same opponent in three consecutive years since Toronto did that to Ottawa in 2000-02, per the NHL Communications Department.
This also means that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven years. That’s a remarkable stretch of playoff success, especially in the salary cap era.
Questions remain for Chicago going forward, not the least of which is what its defense will look like if Michal Rozsival misses a lengthy period of time due to what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. For now though, Chicago can take a breather as it waits to see who will emerge victorious from the series between Calgary and Anaheim.
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After suffering a 4-1 loss tonight, the Minnesota Wild are just two defeats away from being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks for the third straight year. Certainly the team isn’t devoid of hope as the first two contests were in Chicago, so if Minnesota can defend the Xcel Energy Center in Games 3 and 4 then this will essentially be anyone’s series again.
Still just because a road to success remains doesn’t mean that it will be easy for Minnesota to travel. By the sounds of it, Wild coach Mike Yeo thinks they’ll need to make some adjustments to avoid falling victim to a familiar narrative.
“I don’t know what team played that game tonight, but it wasn’t us,” Yeo said, per the team’s Twitter feed. “I think we were focused on the goal, focused on the win, and not focused on the things we needed to do.”
Yeo still thinks the Wild have the personnel in place to win this series, but they have to crack down on the mental mistakes.
“It was a between the ears thing,” the bench boss told the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff in reference to Sunday’s loss.
Among other things, the Wild need to limit Chicago’s top players. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp each have three points already in this series while Jonathan Toews netted a shorthanded goal in Game 2. Complicating things further is the fact that Minnesota wasn’t that great of a home team in 2014-15. The Wild were 22-13-6 at the Xcel Energy Center, which ties them for the worst home record of any playoff team.
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.
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.