The Chicago Blackhawks have the Minnesota Wild on the brink of elimination, and Corey Crawford did his part in Game 3 on Tuesday with a sensational shutout performance.
We have some video evidence, too.
Among his biggest saves of the night, this one comes against Mikael Granlund on a breakaway in the second period to preserve the 1-0 Chicago lead:
And then there is this desperation save in the third period, during a scramble in his goal crease. Crawford drops the stick and lays down the blocker while falling to the ice, keeping the rolling puck out:
The Chicago Blackhawks needed only the one goal, apparently. Their goalie Corey Crawford was the difference, putting forward arguably his best performance of these Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday.
Thanks to a 30-save shutout from Crawford and a goal from the red-hot Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks took Game 3 by a final score of 1-0, and now have the Wild on the brink of elimination and a surprising sweep in the second round.
Kane needed only the slightest space to sneak a wrist shot by Devan Dubnyk on a first-period power play, giving himself at least a goal in each of the first three games to begin this series.
Crawford, who endured his struggles early in the first round, was the story the rest of the way against the Wild. He recorded his fourth career post-season shutout.
He denied Mikael Granlund on a breakaway in the second period. He stuck out the left pad just in time to stop the puck on the goal line during a scramble in front of him in the second.
And again, in the third, with the Wild buzzing around his crease for the equalizer, Crawford was forced to abandon his stick, falling back to keep the puck out with his blocker.
For every challenge the Wild threw his way in Game 3, Crawford had the answer.
And now the Blackhawks are one win away from their third consecutive trip to the Western Conference final.
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.
If the Minnesota Wild can come back to take Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, people will almost certainly look back to a key save from Devan Dubnyk on Patrick Sharp in the second period.
With the Blackhawks up 3-1, having scored three times in the opening period, Dubnyk got across with the right pad to stop Sharp on a one-timer, preventing Chicago from going up by a trio of goals. A few minutes later, Zach Parise and then Mikael Granlund scored for Minnesota to make it a 3-3 game.
(Teuvo Teravainen gave the lead back to Chicago, scoring with under a minute remaining in the middle period.)
When the Wild signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, it was a statement that Minnesota expected to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup in the near future.
In their first year together they ended Minnesota’s four-season long playoff drought. In the Wild’s second campaign of the Praise/Suter era, they won their first playoff series since 2003. In both postseason runs though, they were eliminated by Chicago and if the Wild are to take another step forward this year, they will have to finally get the better of the Blackhawks in their upcoming series.
The biggest change this time around is goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Before acquiring him from Arizona, the Wild seemed to be on their way to having a disappointing campaign. Minnesota had lost six straight games and had given up seven goals twice in that span. From Jan. 15 onward, Minnesota posted a 28-9-3 record with Dubnyk starting in almost every contest.
Dubnyk earned a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 39 regular season games with Minnesota, which led to him getting a Vezina Trophy nomination. Although the Blues had some success against him in the first round, they couldn’t beat him consistently and that was a big part of their downfall. Contrast that stability in net with what Minnesota experienced in the 2014 playoffs when goaltending injuries were a big part of the story.
Of course, it’s not just about him. Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Pominville all had a strong series against St. Louis. The Wild will certainly need that kind of offensive depth going forward because there’s one thing they should be painfully aware of at this point: the Blackhawks are an immensely talented team and it takes everyone chipping in to beat them.