There was the double-overtime game with the unbeatable backup goalie. There was the three-goal comeback. There was the three-goal collapse. There was a triple-overtime game in there, too.
And that’s just been the Blackhawks’ postseason experience so far. Around the league, it’s been every bit as crazy.
“Probably the little swings are a little higher than other years,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “If you’re watching game in and game out, these playoffs are maybe a little wilder than other years.”
Well, “wilder” is an interesting term. Because the Minnesota Wild appear to be named ironically. And after a surprisingly frantic first game of the series, the Wild on Sunday did what they do best —slowing things down to a crawl —in Game 2.
But the Hawks responded by doing what they do best — waiting for a crack in the defensive armor, then busting right through it —in a 4-1 victory.
Marian Hossa saw Ryan Suter lazily playing the puck along the wall at center ice on a power play, so he stole it and fed Jonathan Toews on a 2-on-0 for a shorthanded goal. Duncan Keith saw a glimmer of daylight between him and Kane far up the ice, and sent a perfect stretch pass to set up Kane’s first goal of the night. And rookie Teuvo Teravainen made a savvy chip at center ice around a Wild defenseman to a supporting Patrick Sharp for another goal.
Each goal was the product of waiting out the Wild, who now find themselves down 2-0 in the series, and 0-8 against the Hawks at the United Center in the last three postseasons. Game 3 is Tuesday in St. Paul.
This was the Hawks in full — defensively sound, offensively opportunistic, and backed by a stellar 30-save effort by Corey Crawford. Joel Quenneville called it their best all-around effort of the postseason.
“It’s a situation against this team where you want to stay patient — you have to stay patient against them,” said Patrick Kane, who scored twice to give him 101 points in 101 career playoff games. “And when you do that, hopefully you can capitalize on some chances the other way by playing good defense.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo was baffled by his team’s mistakes with the puck.
“We didn’t make those mistakes,” he said. “I don’t know what team played that game, but it wasn’t us tonight.”
No, there wasn’t too much drama in this one, as the Hawks improved to 28-0-0 when leading after two, with Kane adding the empty-net goal, his fifth tally of the postseason.
In fact, for the first half of the game, basically nothing happened. Nearly eight minutes in, the Hawks held a 1-0 lead in shots on goal. At that point, the Wild had only one shot attempt. Crawford made a couple of saves on Thomas Vanek on the doorstep, but that was basically the extent of the action. At the midway point, the loudest post-anthem cheers of the night came during a TV timeout, as three fans performed a choreographed lip-sync to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
It took an Andrew Shaw cross-checking penalty at 10:45 of the second for things to finally pick up, as Hossa pounced on Suter and Toews barely beat Dubnyk — by maybe an inch before Suter swept the puck out of the crease. The shorthanded tally changed the dynamic of the game, invigorating the sleepy United Center and forcing the Wild to open up offensively.
“It kind of wakes up the team, wakes up the crowd, and it makes the game a little more interesting after that,” Kane said. “But we’re fine playing that way.”
Now chasing a lead, the Wild went on the attack after that, but Crawford was brilliant, stopping a Kyle Brodziak breakaway, then getting his right pad on a Zach Parise rebound a minute later. He was rewarded with “Co-rey, Co-rey” chants from the crowd. Kane scored with 19.9 seconds left in the second, and after Matt Dumba’s power-play goal cut the lead to 2-1 early in the third, Teravainen set up Sharp for the big insurance goal.
From there, the Hawks locked it down defensively, beating the Wild at their own game.
“It was our best game all the way around,” Quenneville said. “Good pace and energy from the outset, good pace to our game, defensively solid, all lines were consistent, we had a lot of offensive zone time and puck possession. We played the right way.”