CHICAGO -- Edge-of-the-crease goals from Bryan Bickell and captain Jonathan Toews allowed the Chicago Blackhawks to hold serve Sunday night in a wild Western Conference Second Round series against the Minnesota Wild, claiming a 2-1 victory in Game 5 at United Center.
"We are not going to get good chances all game," Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We have to work hard, get to the net, get pucks and bodies to the net and get those dirty goals. I mean, we have speed and skill, but that is not going to get you chances all the time; you have to mix it up and go hard to the net."
Chicago did that to a T on each of its goals in Game 5.
As a result, the home team has won each of the five games in this series, and Chicago improved to 6-0 at home this postseason. The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can make their second straight trip to the Western Conference Final with a victory in Game 6 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS).
"We definitely would like to finish it there," Chicago forward Marian Hossa said of Game 6. "We know how hard it is to play in their building and we know we have to be better than we were in the last three games."
Minnesota faced a 3-2 series deficit in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche, but found a way to wiggle free, winning Game 6 at home before erasing four one-goal deficits in Game 7 en route to an overtime victory.
Now, the Wild will have to follow that same path if they hope to upset the Blackhawks.
"It [stinks] to lose a game like this, and obviously when you lose, you're frustrated, you're mad," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "But I think there's been enough in this series where we should feel confident still. That said, we also recognize that we'd better be ready."
Chicago scored the winning goal 4:33 into the third period with a working man's goal, the kind that defined its run to the title last spring and also the kind of goal conspicuously absent during Minnesota's dominance in the past two games.
"That's the way we wanted to play and the way we have been looking to play the past few games," Toews said.
The play started with an aggressive forecheck by Toews, who put a big hit on Wild forward Mikael Granlund. Eventually, Hossa got the puck behind the goal line and caused some havoc before Patrick Sharp took a shot. Then Hossa took a shot. Then mayhem ensued with Toews emerging from it with the loose puck, slamming it home, barely beating the lunge from Minnesota goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and a stick-save attempt by defenseman Nate Prosser.
"It was just an ugly goal," Toews said. "As a line, we were playing well and we were just trying to find a way to score and just got an ugly one on the side [of the net]. It felt good that we could hold on."
This game was the first time those three forwards had been together in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they presented a matchup headache for the Wild, who, as the visiting team, had to declare their skaters first after each stoppage.
The goal by Toews provided Chicago's first lead in 149 minutes and 19 seconds in this series. Despite a few scares in the third period, the Blackhawks made it stand for the rest of the game behind the play of Crawford, who stopped 27 shots. Bryzgalov made 26 saves for the Wild.
It also followed the blueprint the Blackhawks used to score the tying goal and allowed them to become the first team in this series to win after allowing the first goal. In fact, Chicago is the first team in the second round to claim victory after allowing the first goal. It had not happened in the first 19 games of this round.
Basically, the Blackhawks realized pretty is not going to be in fashion against the blue-collar Wild. It was time to get down and dirty.
"Especially against that team, it's tough to manufacture 5-on-5," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The power-play goal, [it's] get one of those at the net, shot mentality, big presence, and we got a break. You're not going to score pretty goals. That's what ignited our second period. That's the recipe for success going forward. That's how you're going to score."
On the play in question, Patrick Kane fired a shot at Bryzgalov, hoping traffic in front would screen the Minnesota goalie. Instead, Bickell was able to tip the puck down and past Bryzgalov. Bickell was right at the top of the crease when he made contact with the shot.
That goal came with Jonas Brodin in the penalty box for hooking Peter Regin on a clear scoring chance. Regin was a surprise addition to the Chicago lineup, forced in after Brandon Bollig was suspended and Jeremy Morin was deemed ineffective.
Erik Haula scored Minnesota's goal with a combination of jaw-dropping speed and admirable work ethic. He blew past Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith before snapping off a shot that was stopped by Crawford. Haula got his own rebound and shot again. This time Crawford saved with his extended leg pad, but the puck bounced up in the air and into the net before defenseman Brent Seabrook could bat it away with his stick at 16:33 of the first.
"We started out the game like we wanted to, got the first goal and had a pretty good first period," Minnesota forward Zach Parise said. "But they've got good players. You have to expect them to muster some chances."
The momentum, however, began to change in the second when Chicago again found its offensive stride in a dominant second period, which saw Minnesota allow a series-high 15 shots. In their 4-0 win in Game 3, the Wild allowed 19 shots for the game.
"The second period was our best of the series," Quenneville said.
Yet, it only produced the tying goal. Chicago had to dig even deeper, and get even dirtier, to get the win which would provide control of the series.
|Brent Seabrook Tripping against Nino Niederreiter|
|Clayton Stoner Hooking against Kris Versteeg|
|Jonas Brodin Hooking against Peter Regin|
|Nino Niederreiter Unsportsmanlike conduct against Johnny Oduya|
|Johnny Oduya Unsportsmanlike conduct against Nino Niederreiter|