By Jess Myers
ST. PAUL — Defenseman Jared Spurgeon had a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild stayed unbeaten at home in the 2014 playoffs, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 to even their best-of-seven playoff series at two games apiece Friday.
Spurgeon helped break a 2-2 tie in the second period, setting up right winger Nino Niederreiter’s go-ahead goal, then scored on a power play in the third period for Minnesota, now 5-0 at Xcel Energy Center in the postseason. Right wingers Justin Fontaine and Jason Pominville also scored for the Wild, who got 18 saves from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Chicago, which was shut out in Game 3, showed more offensive spark, twice rallying to tie the game on goals by left winger Patrick Sharp and center Michal Handzus. Goalie Corey Crawford made 27 saves, but the Blackhawks head back to their home rink for Game 5 with their 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals gone.
As they had done in all of their home playoff games, the Wild got on the scoreboard first. Minnesota left winger Matt Cooke returned to the lineup on Friday after missing the previous seven games due to a league-mandated suspension. Cooke was disciplined for a knee-on-knee check that injured Colorado defensman Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Avalanche. He forced a Blackhawks turnover, then fed a pass to Fontaine. The Wild rookie forward, who had been scratched in four of Minnesota’s first 10 playoff games, ripped a rising shot that beat Crawford over the shoulder. It was Fontaine’s first career playoff goal.
The Blackhawks managed only four shots on goal in the opening period, but the last of them went in the net. In the final minute of the period, Sharp came tearing down the right side of the ice, snapped off a low shot from a wide angle that fooled Bryzgalov between the pads.
Minnesota emerged from a wide-open second period up 3-2. Pominville gave the home team a 2-1 lead, banking a puck off Crawford’s right skate from behind the net. Chicago re-tied the game at 2 when Handzus tipped a shot from the point by defenseman Brent Seabrook. It was the first playoff goal by Handzus this season.
After a long-range blast by Niederreiter — set up by pretty passes from Spurgeon and center Charlie Coyle — put the Wild back ahead, Bryzgalov preserved the lead, stopping Sharp on a breakaway with a right pad save.
Spurgeon, who had five goals in 67 regular season games, got his third goal in 11 playoff games early in the third on a man advantage after Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival was called for closing his hand on the puck.