Harding impresses both sides in emergency Game 1 start

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Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding wasn’t able to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of their first-round series, but he did more than just hold his own.

Harding, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, played in just five games this season and hadn’t started in a contest since Jan. 30 going into Tuesday’s action. Niklas Backstrom was supposed to play between the pipes for Minnesota in the series opener, but he was hurt during the pregame skate.

Despite Harding’s lack of playing time recently and the short notice, he made 35 saves and gave Minnesota a chance to win, although Chicago ultimately earned a 2-1 overtime victory.

All the same, what Harding accomplished under the circumstances did not go unnoticed by either side.

“Of course (we’re impressed),” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said in a CSN Chicago report. “Everyone knows his story this year and he’s one of those guys, I’m sure, who wants to step up in the playoffs. He played a heck of a game, considering that, tonight. We can expect the same thing from him next game. We want to get on him more and make his job tougher than tonight.”

“You have to applaud the way Josh came in and in a tough situation, played the way he did,” Wild forward Kyle Brodziak added. “Everybody who’s been here for a while knows [Harding’s] capabilities and you saw it tonight, he’s a strong, confident goaltender who’s big in there. We’re confident with whoever’s in the net for us.”

After the game Wild coach Mike Yeo said that that Backstrom had suffered a lower-body injury, but didn’t provide much information beyond that, according to the Star tribune. It’s not clear who the Wild’s starter will be in Game 2 on Friday.