The Chicago Blackhawks looked a bit shaky in the third period once again, but some strong goaltending from Corey Crawford and a critical insurance goal from Bryan Bickell sealed the game as the Hawks won a 4-1 decision over the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the second round series.
Brandon Saad scored twice in the game, and Jonathan Toews scored as well for the Hawks, and Crawford made 18 saves in the win. Cody McCormick picked up the only goal of the game for the Wild, and Ilya Bryzgalov's 19 saves weren't enough as the Hawks took a 2-0 lead in the series.
Just like they did in Game 1, the Blackhawks seized the momentum early in the game, making some really ice plays on all four of their lines. Niklas Hjalmarsson had a great scoring chance with wide open ice early on, but Bryzgalov saw the shot all the way in and made the save. A few shifts later, Jeremy Morin made a great pass over to Kris Versteeg near the front of the net, but the shot barely drifted wide of the net to keep the game scoreless.
The Blackhawks’ pressure ended up paying dividends when they got the first power play of the game on a silly penalty by Clayton Stoner, but they weren’t able to convert. Bryan Bickell had a nifty deflection off a shot from the point, but the puck ended up careening off the crossbar and into the netting behind the goal, leaving the game tied at 0-0.
Bickell ended up getting some sweet revenge a few minutes later as the Blackhawks took the lead. After getting the puck in the defensive zone, Bickell made an excellent stretch pass up the ice to Marian Hossa, who was wide open at the blue line. The veteran winger didn’t score on his breakaway chance, but Toews was there to clean up the mess as he charged the net. The puck bounced off of him and into the cage, and with that the Hawks grabbed a 1-0 lead.
The thrills for the Blackhawks ended abruptly a short time later as Hjalmarsson took a shot to the throat area. After being helped off the ice, Hjalmarsson was examined by the team’s trainers, but he was quickly back on the ice as the Hawks continued to lead.
In the final moments of the first, the Blackhawks got a few more chances, but none of them made their way past Bryzgalov. Hossa made a great steal in the neutral zone to set up a 2-on-2 rush the other way, but Toews snagged a pass and just pushed a shot attempt wide before the horn sounded.
As the second period got underway, the Wild continued to struggle, and the Hawks continued to apply pressure. Bickell blasted a shot from the slot that went high off Bryzgalov’s blocker, and Toews barely missed the rebound attempt. The Hawks got another great chance with four different players driving in towards the net, but somehow they couldn’t extend their lead. Patrick Kane had a nice opportunity from in close, but Ben Smith and Patrick Sharp both whiffed on their attempts at the rebound.
The Wild did turn up the pressure a bit in the closing stages of the period, getting a couple of good chances on a late power play, but it was the Hawks that eventually scored. This time, it was Saad doing the honors, getting the puck near the face-off dot and cutting back across the slot. His shot was barely deflected by the stick of Zach Parise, but it was enough to push it past Bryzgalov as the floating shot tucked in just under the crossbar to make it 2-0 Blackhawks with less than a minute remaining in the second period.
Just like they did in Game 1, the Wild came storming out of the gate in the beginning of the third period, and they got a goal as a result. Erik Haula made a great play to get around Nick Leddy in the neutral zone, and he made a brilliant cross-ice pass to Stoner. The Wild forward, quickly becoming a thorn in the side of the Blackhawks, then dished a pass to a wide open Cody McCormick, who ripped a shot past Crawford to pull the Wild to within a goal at 2-1.
The Blackhawks ended up reeling a bit after the goal, but just about every Minnesota shot was blocked away by the Hawks’ defensemen. Brent Seabrook made one of the key plays of the day after a Duncan Keith pass across the zone was intercepted by Scandella. Seabrook jumped back in on the play through the slot and made a diving poke check to push the puck into the corner, and the Hawks escaped with their lead intact.
As the period wore on, the Blackhawks seemed to get their sense of urgency back a bit as they got a few good chances to score. Kane had the best chance on the rush, but instead of passing to an open Sharp at the other side of the crease, he ended up taking a shot on goal that was stopped by Bryzgalov.
The Blackhawks got a couple of really nice chances in the closing minutes of the game, and they were finally able to score with just under three minutes left. After a nice defensive play by the Hawks, Hossa deked around Zach Parise and headed down the ice with Bickell on a 2-on-1. Bickell's wrist shot beat Bryzgalov on the glove side, making it 3-1 Blackhawks and providing a critical insurance goal for the team.
With two minutes left in the game, the Wild pulled Bryzgalov, and the Blackhawks made them pay with an empty-net goal. Saad somehow managed to drive his way through the defense once again, and he flipped home the shot to emphatically slam the door on the game, and the Hawks will head to Minnesota with a 2-0 series lead.
The series will resume on Tuesday night, with puck drop scheduled for 8pm Central time on CNBC.