Blackhawks' overtime goal eliminates Wild
ST. PAUL – Chicago Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane scored off a fortunate bounce in overtime, lifting his team past the Minnesota Wild 2-1 to close out their best-of-seven playoff series 4-2 to advance to the Western Conference finals.
A dump-in shot hit a stanchion in the glass behind Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and bounced to the front of the net. Kane pounced on the play, lifting a backhand shot into the upper reaches of the net, ending the series near the halfway mark of the first overtime.
Right winger Kris Versteeg also scored for Chicago, which benefited from 34 saves by goaltender Corey Crawford in handing Minnesota its only home playoff loss of the season.
Rookie left winger Eric Halua scored the Wild’s only goal. Bryzgalov made 25 saves in the loss as the Wild finished the playoffs 5-1 on home ice.
Chicago, which beat the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals last season en route to winning the Stanley Cup, will face either the Kings or the Anaheim Ducks this season.
Less than two minutes into the first period, Minnesota found itself trailing at home for the first time in the 2014 playoffs. Versteeg won a battle for the puck in the corner, getting free of Wild defenseman Keith Ballard and heading to the net. Versteeg’s bad-angle shot deflected off the skate of a Wild player, bouncing up over Bryzgalov’s right shoulder and into the net. It was Versteeg’s first goal of the playoffs.
Minnesota responded early in the second period via Haula’s fourth goal of the playoffs. The speedy Finnish rookie took a pass from winger Matt Cooke that deflected off the boards by the far blue line, then out-raced a pair of Chicago defenders to the loose puck, springing himself on a breakaway. Haula’s quick wrist shot fooled Crawford to tie the game at 1.
Over the course of the series, both teams accused the other of playing slow-down defensive hockey, but the sellout crowd saw nothing of the sort in a wide-open middle period that featured more than 20 shots on goal and breakaways in both ends of the ice. Bryzgalov, as he did in Game 4, thwarted center Patrick Sharp on a breakaway, while Wild rookie Justin Fontaine had two solo rushes to the Chicago net and was stopped by Crawford both times.
By contrast, Minnesota out-shot the Blackhawks 7-6 in a tightly-played third period, holding Chicago without a shot for the first 12 minutes of the period. Chicago’s penalty killers kept Minnesota from gaining momentum early in the third period, holding the Wild to just two shots during four minutes of man advantage.