Duncan Keith called it “simple,” which explains why teammates call him a freak.
“Simple?” mused Patrick Kane. “Maybe for him.”
Keith and Kane conspired to choreograph a huge goal Sunday night, an eventual winner in a thorough 4-1 victory by the Blackhawks over the Minnesota Wild, who return to the State of Hockey with their status as the sport’s hottest team slipping from quo.
The Wild have romped for three months, surviving playoff-type situations just to qualify for the tournament, enlivened by a goaltender who refused to partake of losing streaks even reaching two.
Yet here are the Wild, still drawing a postseason blank at the United Center in their third year of trying. Even if Minnesota wins all its home games – which it hasn't done in two previous years of trying – a conquest here is imperative, or the team nobody wanted to play will have nobody to play.
Game 2 of this second round lacked the fire of Game 1 as prevent mechanisms for either side were more circumspect. Indeed, for pure action, you waited on the Kiss Cam fandango. But then the patient Blackhawks pounced on one of several miscalculations committed under pressure by the normally tidy Wild as time moved on.
On the 1-0 breakthrough, the Blackhawks were killing a penalty when Marian Hossa deprived Ryan Suter of the puck in front of the benches. Off he went with Jonathan Toews, a 2-on-0 shorthanded sortie. The captain fetched the pass by Hossa, who was motoring deep along the left half boards. Devan Dubnyk made the initial save, but the puck barely crossed the line after grazing the knob of Dubnyk’s stick.
Corey Crawford, his adversary in net, made 1-0 stand with a pair of notable pad saves. The Nashville Predators had this nasty habit of responding in kind to Blackhawk goals, but not here. When a stoppage in play occurred shortly after, nearly the entire audience of 21,934 arose, as if for a Jim Cornelison sighting, to hail Crawford and his new mask.
He appreciated that, almost as dearly as a two-goal cushion achieved late in the middle period. The Wild only had to move the puck deep, but appeared frozen in Chicago’s end, perhaps imagining that Keith might circle around or regroup. He did neither, shipping a perfect pass on the tape to Kane, who took it inside the other blue line, swiveled around in stride, then shot from the right circle. The puck saucered by Dubnyk inside the far post, and it was 2-0.
Patrick Sharp, off a heady maneuver by Teuvo Teravainen, made it 3-1 in the third period, and Kane’s empty-net tally brought him to 101 points in 101 playoff games. However, it was his Harlem globetrotting sequence that merits further discussion. Granted, having Kane on the receiving end never hurts. But the instincts by Keith, the execution, the vision…
“Had a lane and just threw it to Kaner,” monotoned Keith after 30 minutes, 12 seconds and a +4 rating. “Simple.”