The Chicago Blackhawks saw their 2-0 lead evaporate in the early stages of the third period, but Patrick Kane single-handedly saved the day as he scored two incredible goals in the closing minutes to secure a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.
Bryan Bickell also scored twice in the game, including an empty netter that sealed the contest late. Marian Hossa also scored for the Hawks, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves in the winning effort.
The physical play in the game was definitely present early and often, but Andrew Shaw got a little too rambunctious as he picked up a silly interference penalty to put the Wild on the power play. Minnesota wasn’t able to get anything going on the man-advantage however, as both Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger made some sparkling defensive plays to keep the game scoreless.
As the period wore on, the hits kept coming on both sides, and Shaw ended up paying the price. After Joakim Nordstrom (who was a late addition to the lineup) hit Clayton Stoner, the Wild enforcer went after Shaw on his next shift, slamming into the boards. Shaw ended up limping off the ice, and he returned to the locker room, where he would remain for the rest of the game.
A few minutes later, the Blackhawks got their first power play of the game when Jonas Brodin hit Hossa in the face with a high stick. After a really nice possession, the Blackhawks got on the board when Bickell deflected a shot from the point off the stick of Brent Seabrook, giving his team a 1-0 lead and seemingly lighting a flame under the Hawks.
Brandon Bollig tried to get in on the scoring a few minutes later, but his goal was immediately waved off. After a review, it was confirmed that the official had blown the whistle before the puck crossed the goal line, and the game remained at 1-0.
As the second period began, both teams picked up some really high quality scoring chances. Mikael Granlund got the puck in stride on the rush, and he put a shot off the crossbar. On the very next sequence, the Hawks nearly scored again as a shot from Hossa hit Ilya Bryzgalov and then nearly rebounded in off of Toews’ skate.
Both teams got power play opportunities as the period wore on, but it was the Blackhawks that ultimately succeeded as they got a critical insurance goal. After a beautiful one-touch pass by Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad drove through the Minnesota defense and got a clear path to the net. Instead of immediately shooting however, Saad wove a pass between Bickell’s legs, and when Hossa got the puck on his stick, he flipped in the one-timer goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
After that goal, the Wild really clamped down to control the rest of the period. Leddy was tagged with an elbowing penalty after drilling Dany Heatley with a shot to the face, but the Wild still couldn’t score despite some great chances. Miikko Koivu got the best chance of all after he redirected a shot in front of the net, but Crawford was there to smother the opportunity. He also made another great sequence of saves on a 3-on-2 rush by the Wild, and he was helped by a great diving steal and clear from Kruger as the Hawks retained their two goal lead.
In the waning minutes of the period, the Blackhawks got another power play as the Wild were tagged with a too many men penalty. They couldn’t get much going as the clock wound down, and after Patrick Sharp’s pass evaded the stick of Duncan Keith at the point, the horn sounded with Chicago up two goals.
As the third period got started, the Blackhawks failed to score on the remainder of their power play, and after a mad netfront scramble at the other end, the Wild finally got on the board. A shot from the corner somehow got through Crawford's legs, but Johnny Oduya was able to pull it out of the crease. After Jason Pominville came crashing into the crease, Oduya accidentally kicked the puck into the net, and after a video review the play was ruled a goal and the Wild pulled to within a 2-1 margin.
The Wild continued to press the issue, and they ended up getting rewarded with a goal to tie things up just a few minutes later. After a turnover in the neutral zone by Bollig, the Wild came back down the ice and got two separate chances, with the second one getting past Crawford as Kyle Brodziak made a tremendous play to one-time a shot to tie things up at 2-2.
After going over 20 minutes without a scoring chance, the Blackhawks finally got one a few minutes later, and it was Kane that ended up giving Chicago back the lead. Getting the puck in the neutral zone, Kane drove through a slew of Wild defenders, and after he was pushed to the outside of the zone, he still managed to flip the puck into the top corner of the net to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy as the Hawks took a 3-2 lead.
In the closing minutes of the game, the Blackhawks scored two quick goals to put the game away. On a shot from the point, Ben Smith hit a great touch pass wide of the net to Kane, who tapped in the easy goal and made it a 4-2 game with three minutes remaining. Just a few seconds later, the Wild pulled Bryzgalov from the net, but Bickell quickly made them pay with an empty net goal scored from the neutral zone as the Hawks increased their lead to three goals.