By Brad Gardner
The Chicago Blackhawks took a 2-0 series lead over the eighth seeded Minnesota Wild with a win at home on Friday night. After jumping out to a two-goal lead in the second period, the Blackhawks eventually held on to win by a final score of 5-2.
It was a rematch in net between Corey Crawford and Josh Harding after each goaltender turned in a strong performance in Game 1 of the series. Neither disappointed on Friday, even though it was a higher-scoring affair. Crawford got the win in Game 2 with 26 saves, while Harding managed 43 saves on 47 shots in the loss.
Michael Frolik and Patrick Sharp registered two goals apiece as the Blackhawks carried play for a majority of the game. Despite a substantial lead in the shot column for the home team, the visitors remained in it for much of the game, trailing only by one goal heading into the third period.
The Blackhawks got off to the fast start they wanted in the first period, out-shooting the Wild 17-7 in the first 20 minutes. The team found a lot more success getting into the offensive zone and building up speed in the neutral zone, leading to a lot more back-and-forth action than the first game of the series.
Michael Frolik opened scoring at the 8:34 mark of the first period by picking up a loose puck on a Chicago rush into the zone. Andrew Shaw carried the puck over the blue line and slapped the puck towards the net. Minnesota defenseman Justin Falk got a piece of the shot, but the puck bounced through the slot, past Tom Gilbert, and right onto the stick of Frolik, who beat Harding to the glove side.
A quick one-time chance from Zach Parise and a penalty call against Jonathan Toews looked to turn the tide in Minnesota’s favor early in the second period, but instead Frolik extended the lead with a shorthanded goal. Duncan Keith attempted to backhand the puck to the net on the rush, but the shot was blocked by Jared Spurgeon and again Frolik found it and slid the puck under the pad of Harding to make it 2-0 less than a minute into the second period.
Although the Blackhawks maintained their pressure in the second, the Wild were at least able to reciprocate with several extended stays in the Chicago zone. Crawford was not seeing the quantity of shots as his counterpart, but nonetheless did his part to keep the Wild off the board through the first 50 minutes of the game. Minnesota’s second power play of the middle frame was unsuccessful, in large part because Crawford held his ground against a flurry of chances, officially five shots in the span of two seconds, by Zach Parise.
The back-and-forth play eventually caught up with the home team however, as Crawford was beaten on a 2-on-1 break by Devin Setoguchi. Brent Seabrook skated down into the Minnesota zone to check a Wild player along the wall, which allowed Matt Cullen room to skate with the puck and thread a pass by Duncan Keith to the streaking Setoguchi. He hit the top of the net with the wrist shot, pulling the Wild back within one with just over two minutes to play in the second period.
The Blackhawks entered the third with just the 2-1 lead despite carrying play, but Patrick Sharp‘s first goal of the playoffs just over three minutes into the period extended that lead to two goals. Patrick Kane fed Michal Handzus in the slot, but he was unable to get a shot on net. Kane collected the puck and moved it behind the net to Sharp, whose quick backhand shot beat Harding to make it 3-1.
Sharp added his second goal a little over 12 minutes later. Kane carried the puck into to the slot but was encircled by all five Wild players. He spun and sent a no-look pass to a wide open Sharp off to the side of the net. Harding didn’t have a view of the puck and didn’t react to Sharp’s chance on the open cage.
Marco Scandella made it 4-2 at 16:29 of the third period, but by then it was too late. Bryan Bickell eventually swept in an empty net goal to give the Hawks the 5-2 victory.
– No points from the Toews line in Game 2 but it wasn’t for lack of trying – Brandon Saad in particular stood out. He was credited with seven shots, second only to Sharp’s eight.
– The Blackhawks power play went 0-for-4 with seven shots. The Wild were unsuccessful on two chances – they were also credited with seven power play shots, but five of them came when Crawford squashed Parise’s Persistence.
– After giving up the bad goal to Charlie Coyle on the first shot of Game 1, Corey Crawford saved 46 consecutive shots before he was beaten by Devin Setoguchi in the second period of Game 2.
– Brandon Bollig finished with six hits in 7:13 of ice time, tying Parise for the lead in hits. The Blackhawks out-hit the Wild in Game 1, only the fifth time all season that has happened, but the Wild led that category 43-35 in Game 2.
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Patrick Sharp… 2. Corey Crawford… 1. Michael Frolik.
– Minnesota inserted Justin Falk into the lineup for Clayton Stoner. There were no changes in Blackhawks lineup from Game 1.
– The series will shift to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for Game 3 on Sunday 2pm central.
By Brad Gardner