Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Biggest Takeaways from Game 5
However, there were almost no similarities compared to the Blackhawks' two previous home-ice wins in the series. Those were dominant wins in which they outskated the visitors and simply made more key plays when the game was on the line.
The Wild appeared to match or exceed the Blackhawks in nearly every key category in Game 5, except the final score. Minnesota pressed Chicago for 60 minutes and dominated much of the third period as it fought for a tying goal that never came.
Still, the Blackhawks are now one game away from advancing to the Western Conference Final for the second year in a row.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the game.
Toews Scored Decisive 'Ugly' Goal
The Blackhawks were breathing a bit easier as they went into the locker room at the end of the second period. They had scored the tying goal in the previous 20 minutes, and they had a chance to gather themselves prior to the third period.
Anytime the Blackhawks are involved in a tight game in the postseason, the spotlight tends to fall on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They are the two standard bearers when the game is on the line.
If the Blackhawks are going to get the job done with a highlight-film goal, Kane is going to score it. If they are going to depend on their work ethic and determination, Toews is going to be heavily involved.
Toews made it happen in Game 5 with his toughness and desire. Toews started the game-winning sequence with a heavy check of Mikael Granlund and then went to the front of the net. Patrick Sharp picked up the puck and flipped it towards the net. Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter batter the puck with his glove, but Marian Hossa skated through the crease and backhanded the puck to Toews.
The captain batted the puck into to the net past Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Nate Prosser with his back to the net at the 4:33 mark of the third period. "Just an ugly goal," Toews told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ugly, and beautiful at the same time.
Get the Lead...and Lose
The Minnesota Wild had played decisively in winning Games 3 and 4 at the Xcel Energy Center.
They skated faster than the Blackhawks, they won puck battles in the corners and they made more skilled plays than their celebrated opponents. The Wild were determined to play the same way when they donned their road whites and played in the United Center.
The Wild started the game with the kind of focus and determination they had not shown in their two previous road games in the series. It paid off when speedy Erik Haula scored the opening goal of the game late in the first period. The Wild were able to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the end of 20 minutes, and the restless Chicago fans serenaded their heroes with a chorus of boos.
Blackhawks fans had every reason to be nervous. Throughout the first four games, the team that scored the opening goal had managed to come away with the victory.
Minnesota played a relentless brand of hockey throughout the majority of the game, but it was not enough.
The Blackhawks broke the opening-goal-equals-victory trend with a power-play goal in the second period and Toews' magic in the third.
Crawford Bounces Back Once Again
Corey Crawford may not be the best goalie in the NHL, but it seems likely that no netminder has a shorter memory.
His signature throughout his NHL career has been the ability to bounce back with a stellar effort after a dull one.
Crawford gave up eight goals as the Blackhawks dropped Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota. While the Blackhawks were outplayed by their hosts in both games, Crawford did not distinguish himself with his effort, either.
Crawford bounced back with a championship-type effort in Game 5. After giving up a goal in the opening period, Crawford shut the door on Minnesota.
The Wild matched the Blackhawks with 28 shots on goal in the game, and they really took it to the hosts in the third period. Minnesota outshot Chicago 14-7 in the final 20 minutes, and Crawford never cracked as the Wild fired shot after shot at him.
He was particularly strong on a point shot from Jared Spurgeon that Hossa deflected. The shot appeared to be going to the upper corner as Crawford tracked it, but the puck angled down sharply. Crawford got a glove on it and preserved Chicago's one-goal lead.
Second-Period Letdown Costs Wild
The Minnesota Wild got the start they wanted when they came out with speed and focus in the first period and took a 1-0 lead over their hosts.
They went to the locker room feeling good about themselves, but there was still 40 minutes to play. Their play changed when they came out for the second period.
Instead of taking it to the Blackhawks, the Wild adopted more of a defensive posture and the Blackhawks created most of the offensive opportunities. They outshot the Wild 15-6 in the second period, and while most of those shots came from the outside, it changed the pace of the game dramatically.
Eventually, the Blackhawks went on the power play, and when Bryan Bickell stationed himself in front of Ilya Bryzgalov and he deflected a Patrick Kane shot into the net, the Blackhawks breathed easier.
They were no longer trailing on their home ice, and it seemed inevitable that the Blackhawks would eventually win the game.
The Wild would get back to dictating the pace in the third period, but not until the Blackhawks took the lead on Toews' goal. Minnesota was aggressive after that, but the Wild could not score the game-tying goal.
Minnesota suffered a temporary letdown midway through Game 5, and it prevented them from earning the road win they will need if they are going to survive this series and advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Role Player Peter Regin Comes Through for Blackahwks
The Blackhawks were trailing the Wild 1-0 in the second period, and they needed a spark to get back in the game.
Unlikely Peter Regin gave them the charge they needed. The fourth-line center had the puck on his stick as the game neared its midway point. He gathered speed at center ice and went hard to the net. He probably would have made it if Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin had not hooked him as he reached the critical part of his journey.
Brodin's indiscretion did not go unnoticed. He was sent to the penalty box at the 8:35 mark, and the Blackhawks went on the power play. Less than a minute later, Bryan Bickell artfully deflected Patrick Kane's shot into the net.
Head coach Joel Quenneville played Regin because his team's fourth line had provided very little through the first four games of the series. Regin would give the Blackhawks more speed than they had gotten earlier from that line.
“That’s my game, coming through the middle like that,” Regin told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s what I like to do. That’s what I need to get back to — coming with speed through the middle and get the puck and try to create something off that."