CHICAGO – It wasn’t the kind of game the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild usually play, and it could have finished with backup goalies in each net the way goals were being scored in the first two periods.
Instead, Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford (30 saves) and his Wild counterpart Devan Dubnyk (31 saves) played the whole way in Chicago’s 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference Second Round series at United Center on Friday.
Dubnyk allowed three goals on eight shots in the first period, Crawford allowed three on 12 shots in the second, and the game was decided on one that eluded Dubnyk at 19:01 of the middle period.
“Stuff’s happened before [to] us,” said Crawford, who stopped all eight Minnesota shots in the third period. “We’ve been able to get through a lot of things and, I mean, them just coming back in the game … we were able to settle down and just keep playing our hockey, our game. No one was rattled in here. No one was worried. We just kept playing hard.”
Wild center Mikael Granlund scored his second goal of this year's playoffs at 9:30 of the second period to tie the game 3-3 and complete Minnesota's three-goal comeback in the first half of the period.
It was the fifth time in seven postseason games the Blackhawks allowed at least three goals in a period, the third time with Crawford in goal. As was the case in the previous two instances, during the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators, the defense in front of Crawford did him no favors.
Spurred by forward Jason Zucker’s goal at 1:21 of the second, the Wild took over the game for a stretch. They dominated puck possession, put intense pressure on Crawford, and buzzed the Blackhawks net with regularity, completely opposite of the way they played in the first period. After Zucker got Minnesota started, Zach Parise made it 3-2 at 5:07 on a power play, followed by Granlund’s goal that pulled the Wild even.
Unlike that first-round series, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville stood pat in goal.
He made two in-game switches against Nashville, each of which led to wins. He pulled Crawford after one period in Game 1 and pulled backup Scott Darling during the first period of Game 6. This time, Quenneville didn’t even look down the bench at Darling after the third Wild goal, a shot that got past Crawford on the short side.
“Well, the game was tied,” Quenneville said when asked why he stayed with Crawford. “We called time out, slowed the game, got the momentum shifted a little bit. I thought the power-play goal [by Parise] got them going again and they scored kind of quickly after that … pucks were going in at both ends at a rate that we’re not accustomed to, and that’s probably the difference.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo had similar sentiments about Dubnyk, who didn’t get much defensive help in the first period.
“That’s why I didn't’ pull him in that situation,” Yeo said. “He wasn’t at fault on those plays, and even to start the second period, it was looking like a pretty good decision.”
Dubnyk was pulled in the first round during a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center after allowing six goals on 17 shots. Otherwise, he was so good against St. Louis he was a big subplot coming into this series against Chicago.
He'll try to mirror what happened against the Blues in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVA Sports 2). Dubnyk rebounded from his poor game against St. Louis by stopping 66 of 68 shots in the final two games to help Minnesota close the series.
“It doesn’t feel good, but at the same time you just stop the next one,” Dubnyk said of allowing four goals to Chicago. “You’ve just got to stay with that and that’s all you can do from there, make a couple of nice plays. We were all, myself included, pretty excited to get this thing going and it showed a little bit [early]. But all you can do is stop the next one.”
Crawford took the same mentality into the third period against the Wild. His teammates noticed it and started playing better in front of him.
“I don’t think we helped him enough either [in the second],” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We just sat back and let them come [at him] wave after wave, and I thought he had a couple of huge saves, especially in the third, at the end … but he’s a great goalie, and we know the way he plays gives us a lot of confidence. I think he’s more motivated than ever to play well.”