Monday, May 12, 2014
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Crawford, Blackhawks Edge Wild For 3-2 Series Lead

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[May 12, 2014]  CHICAGO -- Corey Crawford succinctly said all that needed to be said after Sunday night's game.

"Two losses in a row, we had to end that," the Chicago Blackhawks goalie stated emphatically.

The Blackhawks accomplished their mission, beating the Wild 2-1 in Game 5 of the teams' Western Conference semifinal series at the United Center. Chicago took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Blackhawks captain and center Jonathan Toews' fifth goal of the playoffs early in the third period stood up as the game-winner

"That was a good hockey game," Crawford said. "I think we played pretty consistently throughout the whole thing and got better in the tighter moments at the end. ... We needed a big win to have a chance to finish this series on the road."

Game 6 is Tuesday in Minnesota, with Game 7, if necessary, back in Chicago on Thursday.

"It would've been a big win for us going back home, but there's nothing we can do about it now," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "We've been in this position before. We've always played well with our backs against the wall."

The key to the game was that Chicago was successful on something it struggled with over the first four games of the series: creating scoring opportunities and taking shots.

Coming into Sunday's game, Chicago had been held to 22 or fewer shots just eight times in the playoffs since 2003, and four of those times came in the current series.

The Blackhawks snapped that shot drought by putting 28 attempts on Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped all but two in Sunday's game. The Wild, who outshot the Blackhawks 100-83 over the first four games -- also took 28 shots Sunday, but they managed to connect on just one against Crawford.

Chicago and Minnesota remain the only two teams that are unbeaten at home in this year's playoffs. The Blackhawks improved to 6-0 at the United Center, and Minnesota is 5-0 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"We have to keep playing simple, keep playing hard and attacking and play our game," Crawford said.

Overall through the first two rounds of the playoffs to date, Chicago now 7-4 while Minnesota is 6-6.

"We knew they were going to come out flying in the first couple minutes or so," Coyle said of Sunday's game, "so we tried to do the same and just get that pressure right away.

"But we have to keep that going all game, so we'll just look at some things that we need to work on and go from there (in Tuesday's game)."

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Minnesota took a 1-0 lead at 16:33 of the first period. Crawford stopped a shot from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon but could not recover in time to stop a rebound effort by Minnesota center Erik Haula, who tallied his third goal of the playoffs.

The Wild wound up outshooting Chicago 8-6 in the first period, prompting an uncharacteristic round of boos from Blackhawks fans as the teams went to their locker rooms. That seemed to inspire the Blackhawks to dig deeper when they returned for the middle period.

"I think they got a lot of momentum when scoring first," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The trend of the series is that you're in a good spot. I thought we were flying to the goal. I thought our second period was our best of the series, and we did some good things. Third period was a battle. Corey was rock solid."

Chicago tied the game at 9:18 of the second period when left winger Bryan Bickell scored his team-leading sixth goal, pushing the puck past Bryzgalov on the power play.

At 4:33 of the third period, Toews was literally Johnny on the spot, scoring the deciding goal on a rebound off a shot by right winger Marian Hossa.

NOTES: Chicago D Niklas Hjalmarsson still can't speak after being hit in the throat with a puck in Game 2, but he continues to play. ... Blackhawks F Brandon Bollig served the first half of a two-game suspension for an illegal hit on Wild D Keith Ballard. Reported to be suffering from an upper-body injury, Ballard did not make the trip with the Wild for Sunday's game. ... Wild G Darcy Kuemper remained out for a fifth consecutive game due to an upper-body injury. Minnesota has already lost an inordinately high 47 man-games in the first two rounds of the playoffs. ... Chicago C Andrew Shaw sat out his third game due to an upper-body injury. ... Minnesota leads the NHL with 16 different players having scored goals thus far in this season's playoffs. ... The attendance was 22,016.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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