Wild shut out Blackhawks to cut series deficit to 2-1
ST. PAUL – Frustrated offensively for the first eight periods of their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild offense awoke from its slumber in a big way Tuesday.
Left winger Erik Haula and center Mikael Granlund snapped a scoreless tie early in the third period, getting goals less than three minutes apart as the Wild remained perfect at home in the postseason with a 4-0 win. Chicago now leads the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series 2-1.
Goaltender Illya Bryzgalov had 19 saves for Minnesota, which managed just three goals in losing the series’ first two games in Chicago. Left winger Zach Parise added a power-play goal for the Wild late in the third and Granlund tacked on an empty-net goal with 77 seconds remaining.
For the Blackhawks, goalie Corey Crawford made 13 saves, but their many offensive weapons were held at bay.
Haula finally broke the scoreless deadlock less than two minutes into the third period. Right winger Justin Fontaine carried the puck over the blue line and fired a shot that was a foot off the ice, headed wide of the net. Haula sprinted to the side of the crease and batted the puck out of the air, past Crawford. It was Haula’s second goal of the playoffs.
Two shifts later, Granlund doubled the Minnesota lead on a top-line rush. After passes from Parise and right winger Jason Pominville, Granlund’s wrist shot eluded Crawford for a 2-0 Minnesota lead.
For Bryzgalov, pressed into duty when Darcy Kuemper was injured in Game 7 of the Wild’s opening round series with Colorado, it was his first postseason shutout since the 2006 playoffs when he played for the Anaheim Ducks.
Despite a pair of Chicago power plays in the first period, Minnesota had a golden opportunity to take the first lead of the game. While killing a penalty, the Wild saw a bouncing puck get past the Blackhawks defense, springing Haula on a breakaway. The rookie made a stickhandling move at the top of the crease, only to have the puck roll off his stick without getting a shot on goal.
The second period was also scoreless, with the Wild managing only five shots on Crawford, despite controlling the play for long stretches that had the sellout crowd on its feet, urging them on. Chicago played one of the better defensive games it had in the playoffs, blocking seven shots in each of the first two periods, and cutting down Crawford’s workload.
Chicago 0 0 0— 0
Minnesota 0 0 4— 4
Third Period—1, Minnesota, Haula 2 (Fontaine, Moulson) 1:41. 2, Minnesota, Granlund 3 (Pominville, Parise) 4:18. 3, Minnesota, Parise 4 (Suter, Pominville) 17:25 (pp). 4, Minnesota, Granlund 4 (Niederreiter, Coyle) 18:43 (en).
Shots on Goal—Chicago 7-8-4—19. Minnesota 5-5-8—18.
Power-play opportunities—Chicago 0 of 2. Minnesota 1 of 4.
Goalies—Chicago Crawford 6-1-2 (17 shots-14 saves). Minnesota Bryzgalov 2-3-1 (19-19).
A—19,416 (18,064). T—2:28.