Blackhawks gain upper hand by edging Wild 2-1
By Jerry Bonkowski
CHICAGO — After being held to 22 or fewer shots in the first four games of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks roared back with 28 shots in Game 5 Sunday en route to a 2-1 win at the United Center.
Blackhawks team captain and center Jonathan Toews’ fifth goal of the playoffs at 4:33 of the third period was the deciding tally, as Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak and took a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Game 6 is Tuesday in Minnesota at 8 p.m.
Chicago was held to 22 or less shots just eight times in the playoffs since 2003, and four of those times came in the current series vs. the Wild.
The Wild, meanwhile, outshot the Blackhawks 100 to 83 in the first four games and managed to connect on only one of their 28 shots Sunday.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford shook off his poor showing in the last two games to put the Blackhawks back in the driver’s seat.
The series continued a trend where Chicago and Minnesota are the only two remaining teams in this year’s playoffs who have won every game at their respective home arenas.
Chicago is now 6-0 at the United Center and Minnesota is 5-0 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“We have to keep playing simple, keep playing hard and attacking and play our game,” Crawford added.
Overall through the first two rounds of the playoffs to date, Chicago is now 7-4, while Minnesota is 6-6.
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead at 16:33 of the first period when Crawford stopped a shot from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, but could not recover in time to stop a rebound by Wild center Erik Haula, who tallied his third goal of the season.
Minnesota wound up outshooting Chicago 8-6 in the first period, prompting an uncharacteristic round of boos from Blackhawks fans as the teams went to their respective locker rooms. That seemed to inspire the Blackhawks to dig deeper when they returned for the middle period.
Chicago tied the game at 9:18 of the second period when left winger Bryan Bickell scored his team-leading sixth goal, pushing the puck past Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on the power-play.
Early in the third period, Toews was literally Johnny on the spot, scoring the deciding goal on a rebound off a shot by teammate and right winger Marian Hossa past Bryzgalov.
NOTES: Chicago D Niklas Hjalmarsson still can’t speak after being hit in the throat with a puck in Game 2, but he continues to play. ... Blackhawks F Brandon Bollig served the first half of a two-game suspension for an illegal hit on Wild D Keith Ballard. Reported to be suffering from an upper-body injury, Ballard did not make the trip with the Wild for Sunday’s game. ... Wild G Darcy Kuemper remained out for a fifth consecutive game due to an upper-body injury. Minnesota has already lost an inordinately high 47 man-games in the first two rounds of the playoffs. ... Chicago C Andrew Shaw sat out his third game due to an upper-body injury. ... Minnesota leads the NHL with 16 different players having scored goals thus far in this season’s playoffs. ... The attendance was 22,016.