Things got really interesting at the end, but the Chicago Blackhawks held on for a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night as they clinched a berth in the Western Conference Final.
Patrick Kane’s third period goal served as an insurance goal, and Marian Hossa’s empty net goal ultimately proved to be the game winner as the Hawks advanced to the conference final for the fifth time in seven season.
The Wild jumped out with a huge push early on in the game, but the Blackhawks did a nice job of keeping the action out to the perimeter of the ice and limiting chances to one-and-done near the net. Corey Crawford stopped everything that came his way during that sequence, and the game remained scoreless.
Just after the halfway mark of the period, the Blackhawks got a quick rush going up the ice in transition, and they scored to take the lead. Johnny Oduya started the play from below the Blackhawks’ goal line, and Bryan Bickell fed a puck across the ice to Brent Seabrook at the red line. Seabrook carried the puck in and fired a shot just over Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder and under the crossbar to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 advantage.
Through the rest of the period, the Blackhawks continued their dominant play at both ends of the ice, and Minnesota was unable to score. Brad Richards had a decent chance late in the period as he got a puck near the netmouth, but Dubnyk made the save and kept the deficit at one after 20 minutes of play.
Minnesota got an early power play in the second period, but they were unable to take advantage of the Jonathan Toews infraction. Just as that penalty ended, Nino Niederreiter committed an infraction of his own, and the Blackhawks scored to extend their lead. Andrew Shaw made the play happen as he fought through traffic in front of the Minnesota cage, and he eventually slid the puck between Dubnyk’s legs to give the Hawks a 2-0 edge.
The Blackhawks got some awful news a few minutes later as Michal Rozsival had to leave the game with a leg injury, and the Wild made things worse by scoring on the very next face-off. After Crawford fought off a shot from the point, Erik Haula picked up the rebound and fired the shot home to make it a 2-1 game.
Minnesota tried pushing back after that goal, but the Blackhawks ultimately calmed things down and got a few more chances toward the end of the frame. Andrew Shaw and Johnny Oduya each had some good chances off a waved-off icing call, and then Marian Hossa had a chance of his own a few minutes later off of a rebound surrendered by Dubnyk, but the goaltender made the stops he needed to in order to keep the game at 2-1 with 20 minutes to go.
The Blackhawks got a power play early in the third period, but in spite of some good chances, they were unable to score. Brad Richards had the best chance of all as he fired a one-timer from the face-off circle, but Dubnyk made the save to keep his team within range.
That was no longer the case a few minutes later as Patrick Kane scored with seven minutes to go in the contest. Niklas Hjalmarsson kicked things off with a tremendous stretch pass up the ice, and eventually Kane put a shot in between Dubnyk’s pads and just over the goal line to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead.
With about four minutes to go in the game, it appeared that the Blackhawks were going to cruise to victory as Marian Hossa netted an empty net tally to make it 4-1, but Minnesota had other ideas. Jason Pominville scored on the power play to make it a 4-2 game with two minutes to go, and then Nino Niederreiter scored just a few seconds later to make it a 4-3 contest.
The Blackhawks were then whistled for a too many men penalty with 15 seconds left in the game, but the Wild couldn’t score and were eliminated by the Hawks for the third consecutive postseason.
The Hawks will now await the winner of the series between the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks to determine their conference final opponent. If the Flames win, the Hawks will host Game 1 of the series, but if the Ducks win, the Hawks will open the third round of the playoffs on the road in California.