The score tied, the tension mounting and yet another overtime drawing near, Patrick Kane took matters into his own hands, as he so often does.
He danced through the Minnesota defense as they picked their poison between him and Patrick Sharp, dusting Ryan Suter and splitting Jonas Brodin and Kyle Brodziak — the Wild’s top two defensemen and one of their top shutdown forwards — before roofing a backhander over Ilya Bryzgalov to break a tie and unleash a deafening roar at the United Center.
As Kane raced to his teammates to celebrate, he twice appeared to yell, “Showtime!” — fitting, given the highlight-reel nature of the goal and his usual penchant for the dramatic.
“Did it look like I said that?” Kane said with a smile. “Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m saying. I was pretty pumped up after that one. You kind of get in your own little world. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I said, to be honest with you.”
Maybe not, but he knows what he did. He bailed out the Blackhawks and propelled them to a 5-2 victory over the Wild in Game 1 of the second-round series, righting the ship after the Hawks squandered a 2-0 lead early in the third period. He added another goal later in the third, and Bryan Bickell added an empty-netter — his second tally of the night — to give the Hawks a 1-0 series lead and their fifth straight victory since dropping the first two against St. Louis.
This one didn’t have the intensity or the hatred that the Blues series had — it’ll probably take another year or two of regular postseason meetings for it to reach that level. It didn’t have the aesthetic beauty and freewheeling action that an Avalanche series would have had, either — the Wild and their neutral-zone-clogging ways don’t allow for such things.
But it certainly had drama. And the Hawks biggest stars have shown they have a way with drama.
In five wins this postseason, Jonathan Toews has three game-winning goals, and Kane now has two.
“They’re game-breakers,” said Ben Smith, Kane’s center who assisted on his second goal. “They’re guys that can change the game in a shift. That’s what they did tonight. We’re happy they’re on our side.”
It wasn’t easy, though, and it didn’t come without a cost. Andrew Shaw left the game in the first period with an apparent right lower-leg injury after taking a hit along the boards from Clayton Stoner, the Wild defenseman who was a one-man wrecking crew for much of the game. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Shaw was “day-to-day,” and that he’d know more on Saturday.
And the Wild showed a little more aggression offensively than they showed in the Hawks’ five-game first-round series victory last spring — a product of the experience and depth they hoped would make for a different series than last spring’s five-game loss to the Hawks.
Of course, the Hawks are pretty experienced and pretty deep, too. Their penalty-kill has now killed 30-of-32 power plays this postseason — 20-of-20 against the Wild in the playoffs dating back to last spring’s perfect effort. And if their power play has indeed woken up after a 3-of-20 effort against the Blues — they scored twice on Jonas Brodin high-sticking penalties on Friday — look out.
The Hawks took a 2-0 lead into the third period on power-play goals by Bickell and Marian Hossa — both with Brodin in the box for high-sticking, and the latter one off a tremendous Kane-like backhanded feed from Brandon Saad — but they were fortunate to be in that position.
Just like in Game 6 against St. Louis, the Hawks were outshot 17-3 in the second period, but were bailed out by a stellar performance by Corey Crawford (30 saves).
“We maybe got away with one there in the second,” Smith said. “They were peppering us a lot.”
All that did was set the stage for another harrowing third period for the Hawks in a postseason already full of them.
Stoner was credited with a goal just 2:19 into the third period when the puck hit off Johnny Oduya’s skate and trickled past Crawford. The goal originally wasn’t seen by the officials, but a review showed the puck clearly had crossed the line, and the Hawks’ lead was cut to 2-1. Kyle Brodziak tied it less than five minutes later, marking the 19th blown two-goal lead in the NHL this postseason.
But that’s when the Hawks’ great equalizer — their sheer, unrivaled talent — won out in the end.
“Sometimes you make some lucky plays that find a way in,” Kane said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be with some great players in this organization, and I think you can go up and down the roster [of guys] that have been here for a long time and say everyone has done some big things in big games and scored big goals. I think it’s part of everyone’s game that’s been around here, with the winning attitude. It’s always nice to chip in, too.”