St. Paul, MN (SportsNetwork.com) - Patrick Kane's tally at 9:42 of overtime
was the game and series winner, as the Chicago Blackhawks claimed a 2-1
victory over the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 of this Western Conference
Minnesota outplayed Chicago through the first half of the extra session, but
the final break went to the defending champions. A point shot from Brent
Seabrook hit the stanchion behind the Wild net and bounced back into play.
Peter Regin missed the puck on the right side, but Kane trailed and lifted a
backhander under the crossbar to end the best-of-seven set.
The 25-year-old native of Buffalo collected his fourth career overtime marker,
and his third series-concluding OT winner after netting the winner in Game 6
of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and the decider in Game 5 of last year's
Kris Versteeg also scored and Corey Crawford came up with 34 saves for the
Blackhawks, who claimed a 4-2 series win and await the winner of the Kings-
Ducks battle in the conference finals.
"They played hard and they never quit against us," said Crawford. "It felt
like they just kept coming harder and harder as the series went on."
Erik Haula picked up the lone goal for the Wild, while Ilya Bryzgalov stopped
25 shots in the season-ending setback.
Minnesota stood an excellent chance of taking a potential Game 7 back in
Chicago, having topped Colorado in the first round in Denver and winning both
Game 7s on the road during its surprising 2003 postseason run.
Less than two minutes after the opening faceoff, Chicago took the lead.
Versteeg sent a shot from the goal line on the right wing into the crease, but
the puck caromed off bodies in front, popped into the air and dropped behind
Haula tied the game at 2:29 of the second period, when he chased down a long
pass from Matt Cooke, flipped the disc beyond the reach of Blackhawks
defenseman Johnny Oduya and beat Crawford on the forehand.
The goaltenders dueled for the duration.
Patrick Sharp was stoned on a clean breakaway by Bryzgalov with just under
seven minutes played in the second period, then Justin Fontaine was denied
from the right wing seconds later.
Crawford remained upright in his crease and flashed his right pad inside of
six minutes left before the second intermission when Cody McCormick whipped
around and shot the puck from the slot.
"He's a very good goalie," Wild winger Zach Parise said of Crawford. "We shot,
tried to get traffic in front of him and screen him. We had great
opportunities, we had breakaways, we hit posts. We just couldn't get that
Minnesota was given a golden chance to take the lead on a power play with 7:05
gone in the third, when Chicago blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson appeared to shoot
a puck out of play in his own zone. Replays suggested it may have been
deflected on the way out.
The Blackhawks defense used active sticks and positioning to close off passing
lanes and block shots throughout, but Crawford still had to stop Charlie Coyle
on a stuffer attempt from the left side.
Crawford had to make four saves under heavy pressure on the Wild's first two
shifts of overtime, including two in close from Keith Ballard and Haula.
Chicago upped its overtime record to 3-2 in the 2014 postseason, having won
its last three games to proceed beyond regulation ... Kane and Jonathan Toews
have accounted for seven of the Blackhawks' eight-game winning goals through
two rounds ... Minnesota ends this year's playoffs with a 2-2 overtime mark
... Ballard returned to the lineup after a one-game absence with a suspected
upper-body injury after absorbing a check from behind by Chicago's Brandon
Bollig in Game 4. Bollig served the second of his two-game suspension for the
hit ... Since the 2009 playoffs, the Blackhawks have won 14 straight contests
when a series is knotted at two games apiece.