By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks got a huge performance in net by Corey Crawford Tuesday night, allowing them to take a commanding lead in their Western Conference Semifinal with Minnesota. Crawford’s fourth career playoff shutout allowed a Patrick Kane power play tally to be the difference in a 1-0 Game 3 Chicago win. With the win, the Blackhawks go up 3-0 on the Wild in the best-of-seven series.
First Period-Corey Crawford was kept busy early as the Wild tried to capitalize on the vocal home crowd. Ninety seconds in, the Chicago goalie knocked away a laser from Ryan Suter and Niklas Hjalmarsson got in the way of Tomas Vanek’s rebound attempt. Crawford stopped four Minnesota shots in the first four minute as the ice was tilted toward his crease.
Brent Seabrook’s shot from just inside the Wild blue line 5:49 into the period was the first for the Hawks. It was absorbed by Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. Jonathan Toews had a scoring opportunity a minute later. However, Dubnyk got a hold of the puck before the captain could bring it over to the backhand side.
Antoine Vermette was attempting to keep the puck in the Wild zone after a Patrick Sharp shot on goal when he tripped Jordan Schroeder at 7:42 to set up the game’s first power play. Chicago killed the infraction without allowing a shot to reach Crawford and lowered the noise level in the building considerably. The fourth line generated a scoring chance when Andrew Shaw forced a loose puck on the forecheck. Marcus Kruger got a shot off in the slot that was stopped by Dubnyk.
With 6:51 left in the period, Jared Spurgeon was sent to the box for tripping Bryan Bickell to give the Blackhawks the man advantage for the first time in the contest. About halfway through the power play, Patrick Kane took a shovel pass from Shaw, skated to the left dot and sent a zinger past Dubnyk and into the net. More oxygen was sucked out of the Xcel Energy Center as the Hawks went up 1-0 at the 14:06 mark.
Teuvo Teravainen jumped on an odd carom off the end boards late in the period but Dubnyk prevented the rookie from extending the Chicago advantage. Still, the Hawks owned a 1-0 lead following the first 20 minutes.
Second Period-Dubnyk had to make a waffle save of a Teravainen shot in the fourth minute. After the rebound was held in, he stopped a shot from the stick of Duncan Keith.
Crawford had to deal with the occasional shot but the Blackhawks controlled the action for most of the first six or seven minutes. Seabrook prevented Zach Parise from hitting Matt Cooke in the slot, laying out on the ice to keep the puck from reaching Cooke. Crawford then stopped attempts by Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu as the Wild started pushing the action in the Chicago zone.
Both teams saw scoring chances fall by the wayside in the 11th minute; Jason Pomminville had an open look on Crawford but fired wide. Teravainen had a good chance at the other end but Dubnyk and the Minnesota defense kept it out of the net. A minute later, Crawford kept Chicago up a goal by making a blocker save of a Mikael Granlund rush to the net.
Bickell was called for interference on Suter 12 minutes into the period to put the Hawks on the penalty kill. Once again, the Wild were turned away. Crawford held off a bouncing puck off a Pomminville shot attempt with his left pad to maintain the Hawks lead in the 17th minute of action.
A Brandon Saad shot was caught by Dubnyk with 1:24 remaining in the middle frame. Crawford fought off a deflected shot by Spurgeon with a minute left and Sharp just missed from the right circle on an odd man rush in the final seconds. The score at the end of the period was the same as it was at the start- a 1-0 lead for Chicago.
Third Period-Minnesota’s Jason Zucker found himself in open ice in the first minute but the puck was on edge when he fired on net. Sharp was the recipient of a nice pass from Teravainen, coming across the Wild crease only to have Dubnyk get a stick on his backhand attempt in the second minute. Brad Richards took a feed from Kane soon after but the puck clanged off the crossbar.
The Wild had an extended session in the Chicago zone but the defense came up with a pair of blocks by Shaw and Johnny Oduya. Minnesota’s defensemen began moving up to press the play in the offensive zone.
Crawford saved a puck from rolling across the Hawks goal line in the ninth minute with his blocker. Some confusion on a shift change led to a Wild power play with 9:52 gone in the final period. Minnesota spent most of the next two minutes camped out in the Hawks end but the Wild were denied as the clock began to become a factor.
In the 16th minute, Crawford tracked the puck when Charlie Coyle fired a shot that hit the stick of Kruger and onto the Chicago net. The Blackhawks withstood a full-on assault on the net by an increasingly desperate Wild bunch.
Dubnyk was pulled for the extra skater with 1:28 left. A high Granlund attempt was held by Crawford with 45 seconds remaining and Mike Yeo called his timeout before a faceoff in the Chicago zone. Toews won the draw and the Hawks cleared the zone. Minnesota was offside with 15.7 seconds to go to set up a faceoff just outside the Chicago blue line. The Wild won the draw but Kane got possession in the Wild zone. Suter blocked the empty net attempt but the clock ran out on Minnesota.
Three Stars-Granlund (third), Kane (second), Crawford (first)
-After Mike Milbury expressed how little confidence he had in Crow heading into the game, Crawford tossed him a 30-save shutout to chew on. Crawford got some help from his defense, of course, but he made three saves that flat out won this game for Chicago. Turning away Granlund with the blocker was indicative of the night he had for his team.
-The Hawks were outshot 30-22 on the night but bested Minnesota at the dot 37-22. I’m sure the Wild outhit Chicago but who the hell cares?
-On the first goal, the puck just seemed to hop around until Kane was able to settle it just before shooting on goal. On first glance, it seemed like some fortunate bounces led to the shot, but credit Sharp and Shaw with some nice passing of a pretty active disk.
-Joel Quenneville had little issue using his fourth line against the Wild’s top skaters. He also had Teravainen on the ice in key third period shifts. Kimmo Timonen? Not so much. The veteran d-man skated just 5:44 Tuesday.
– It feels like forever that I actually covered a playoff game that didn’t start at 8:30 p.m. Definitely loving me a 7:00 p.m. start. That’s why Thursday’s Game 4 puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.