The Minnesota Wild put up a fight, but bowed out of their second round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks without ever taking a lead. The Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes to get to within a goal before falling 4-3.
Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter scored late to put a scare into the Blackhawks. Pominville redirected a one-time shot by Jared Spurgeon on the power play. Fifty seconds later, Niederreiter sent the fans that had stuck around into a frenzy when he snuck a rebound into the net from a sharp angle off a shot from Matt Dumba.
The Wild (4-6) had a lot of scoring chances in both Games 3 and 4 at the Xcel Energy Center, but Crawford was able to stop 64 of the 67 in them. The Wild’s inability to finish throughout the series ultimately did them in.
“It gets frustrating,” Pominville said. “It drags on you. We were getting looks. That’s a good sign, but we weren’t able to get some to the back of the net.
On the other side, the Blackhawks (8-2) seemed to score with relative ease and in a number of different ways. In Game 4, they were able to score from long range off a rush, in close off a rush and through a scrum at the top of the crease as well as into an open net.
Brent Seabrook got the scoring started at the 10:24 mark of the first period. His shot glanced off the leg of Marco Scandella just outside the face-off dot and went over Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder.
The Blackhawks extended their lead to 2-0 with a power play tally three minutes and 28 seconds into the second period. The Wild had just gotten off their first power play of the game and had a lot of good chances that went just wide of the goal. Andrew Shaw fired a loose puck through the legs of Dubnyk 56 seconds into their first man-advantage opportunity.
Patrick Kane did what he has always done and scored a backbreaking goal with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead. He took a pass from Bryan Bickell after Ryan Suter was caught in the offensive zone creating a two-on-one rush. Suter was caught in no mans land after failing to pinch on a loose puck deep in the zone. He then failed to maintain his defensive position and let Bickell skate right past him. Niklas Hjalmarsson lofted a backhand pass over his head and the two Blackhawk forwards were off to the races. Dubnyk had a chance to make the save, but he cheated a bit for a pass back to Bickell, but Kane shot the puck. His shot bounced off the post and Dubnyk before crossing the goal line.
Marian Hossa sealed the victory and netted the eventual game-winner with a shorthanded shot into the open net from between the hash marks of his defensive zone. The goal came moments after Zach Parise hit the post on a rebound opportunity.
“They made some plays,” Pominville said. “They were able to capitalize on a few of their opportunities. That’s what they do. You give them a chance and they don’t need three or four. They find a way to put them in the back of the net.”
Erik Haula got the Wild on the board at the 6:42 mark of the second period by knocking a rebound into the net off the shoulder of Crawford and into the net. Dumba fired a slap shot right off a face-off win by Haula that caught the Blackhawks goaltender high and popped back out in front of him.
The Blackhawks have played in 12 non-Game 7 elimination games over the last three seasons and have lost just one. More impressively, they dispatched the Wild without ever trailing. They led for 172 minutes and 16 seconds. The two teams were tied for 67 minutes and 44 seconds.
No. 3 – Bryan Bickell. The Blackhawks forward had two assists.
No. 2 – Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks forward had two assists.
No. 1 – Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks forward recorded a goal and an assist.
Chicago………1 1 1 – 4
Minnesota……0 1 2 – 3
First Period – 1, Chicago, Seabrook 3 (Bickell, Oduya), 10:24. Penalties – None.
Second Period – 2, Chicago, Shaw 1 (Toews, Kane), 3:28 (pp). 3, Minnesota, Haula 1 (Cooke, Dumba), 6:42. Penalties – Toews, CHI (hooking), :18; Niederreiter, MIN (hooking), 2:32.
Third Period – 4, Chicago, Kane 7 (Bickell, Hjalmarsson), 13:20. 5, Chicago, Hossa 1 (Toews), 16:53 (sh-en). 6, Minnesota, Pominville 3 (Spurgeon, Parise), 17:42 (pp). 7, Minnesota, Niederreiter 4 (Dumba, Suter), 18:32. Penalties – Prosser, MIN (hooking), 4:46; Bickell, CHI (boarding), 16:01; Bench, CHI (too many men;served by Shaw), 19:45.
Shots on goal – Chicago 8-10-7 25. Minnesota 8-18-11 37.
Goalies – Chicago, Crawford (34-37). Minnesota, Dubnyk (21-24). Referees – Steve Kozari, Marc Joannette. Linesmen – Shane Heyer, Scott Cherrey.