The undersized blueliner had a goal and an assist as the Wild
stayed unbeaten at home in the 2014 playoffs, defeating the Chicago
Blackhawks 4-2 to even their best-of-seven playoff series at two
games apiece Friday.
Spurgeon helped break a 2-2 tie in the second period, setting up
right winger Nino Niederreiter's go-ahead goal, then scored on a
power play in the third period for Minnesota, now 5-0 at Xcel Energy
Center in the postseason. Right wingers Justin Fontaine and Jason
Pominville also scored for the Wild, who got 18 saves from
goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Chicago, which was shut out in Game 3, showed more offensive spark,
twice rallying to tie the game on goals by left winger Patrick Sharp
and center Michal Handzus. Goalie Corey Crawford made 27 saves, but
the Blackhawks head back to their home rink for Game 5 with their
2-0 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals gone.
"They get the crowd into it, and they get energized," Blackhawks
coach Joel Quenneville said. "But they play hard in their building,
and they're good in their building, and they check well so it's
tough to get momentum in here."
As they had done in all of their home playoff games, the Wild got on
the scoreboard first. Minnesota left winger Matt Cooke returned to
the lineup on Friday after missing the previous seven games due to a
league-mandated suspension. Cooke was disciplined for a knee-on-knee
check that injured Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of
their first-round playoff series with the Avalanche. He forced a
Blackhawks turnover, then fed a pass to Fontaine. The Wild rookie
forward, who had been scratched in four of Minnesota's first 10
playoff games, ripped a rising shot that beat Crawford over the
shoulder. It was Fontaine's first career playoff goal.
"I felt like the rhythm was there but obviously being able to
contribute early maybe just eases your mind a little bit and allows
me to settle down and just play," Cooke said.
The Blackhawks managed only four shots on goal in the opening
period, but the last of them went in the net. In the final minute of
the period, Sharp came tearing down the right side of the ice,
snapped off a low shot from a wide angle that fooled Bryzgalov
between the pads.
Minnesota emerged from a wide-open second period up 3-2. Pominville
gave the home team a 2-1 lead, banking a puck off Crawford's right
skate from behind the net. Chicago re-tied the game at 2 when
Handzus tipped a shot from the point by defenseman Brent Seabrook.
It was the first playoff goal by Handzus this season. Still, Chicago
emerged frustrated once again.
"They do a good job of picking up their men in the neutral zone,"
Sharp said. "It seems like when we get a chance for some open ice
they play well away from the puck and they're taking up time and
space. It's not so much what they're doing. We can look at ourselves
in our locker room and be a lot better."
After a long-range blast by Niederreiter -- set up by pretty passes
from Spurgeon and center Charlie Coyle -- put the Wild back ahead,
Bryzgalov preserved the lead, stopping Sharp on a breakaway with a
right pad save.
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"There were a lot of responses tonight," said Wild coach Mike Yeo.
"For me a great response was by (Bryzgalov) too. It was a bit of a
possible momentum swing. We think that we go up by two goals and all
of a sudden they have a breakaway. He makes a huge save on the
breakaway and another huge save in the third period. I thought that
was a great response by him."
Spurgeon, who had five goals in 67 regular season games, got his
third goal in 11 playoff games early in the third on a man advantage
after Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival was called for closing
his hand on the puck.
"Any guy can be that guy on any given night, and if you get a chance
to make that play and are able to capitalize it's great for the
team," Spurgeon said.
NOTES: Minnesota played the third period with only five defensemen
because D Keith Ballard left the game in the second period after he
was run hard into the boards by Chicago LW Brandon Bollig. ... One
of the biggest ovations of the first period came during a stoppage
in play when new Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater was shown on
the scoreboard, wearing a Wild jersey and waving to the crowd. The
Louisville signal-caller, drafted 32nd overall by the Vikings on
Thursday, was attending his first hockey game. ... Blackhawks D Nick
Leddy played in all of Chicago's regular season and playoff games
for the last three seasons before being a healthy scratch in Game 3
of this playoff series. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville benched
him for much of the third period in Game 2 and said the night off
was an attempt to motivate Leddy. The Twin Cities native returned to
the Chicago lineup for Game 4. ... Wild LW Matt Moulson was
scratched from the lineup for Game 4 after Minnesota coach Mike Yeo
said Moulson had been playing with a lower-body injury. Acquired
from the New York Islanders at the March trade deadline, Moulson has
struggled offensively in the playoffs, with just a goal and two
assists in 10 games. ... Game 5 of the series will be played Sunday
evening at the United Center in Chicago, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
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