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Blackhawks win in OT, will face Ducks or Kings

by Shawn Roarke

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Chicago Blackhawks finally found a way to defeat the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Their reward: a second straight trip to the Western Conference Final.

Patrick Kane scored 9:44 into overtime after a funny deflection off the glass behind the Wild net, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 victory in Game 6 of this Western Conference Second Round series on Tuesday.

Chicago won the series 4-2 and has won 14 straight games when a series was tied 2-2 since the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was exciting to get that opportunity and that chance and whatever it is, if the luck finds me or the heavens above give me some blessings in overtime, I'll keep taking it," Kane said after his sixth game-winning goal in the playoffs and the fourth in overtime. "You know, it's like Johnny [Toews] always finds a way to score game-winners. We have a bunch of guys that have experience and everyone has done it, but it's always exciting when you do it."

Chicago will play the winner of the Western Conference Second Round series between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. Anaheim leads that best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 is Wednesday at Staples Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). If the Ducks win, the series will start in Anaheim. If the Kings rally to win, the series will open in Chicago.

Chicago and Los Angeles met in the Western Conference final last spring. Chicago won that series in five games, then defeated the Boston Bruins in six games to win their second Stanley Cup since 2010.

On the winning goal Tuesday, defenseman Brent Seabrook rimmed the puck into the Minnesota zone, hoping to start a Chicago possession. Instead, the puck hit a seam in the protective glass and unexpectedly popped into the slot. Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter was able to cancel out Chicago's Peter Regin, but Kane beat the backcheck of Minnesota forward Matt Cooke and roofed a shot under the crossbar to silence the full house of 19,396 roaring fans.

"It was a weird feeling tonight because at first you didn't know it was in," Kane said. "It's a good feeling. It was exciting. It's exciting to be in on those goals and have something to do with a big win like this."

As exciting as it was for Kane, it was more painful for the Wild, who carried the play for much of the night only to lose on a bad bounce in a building that has been so kind to them all postseason. Minnesota was 5-0 at home before the overtime calamity in Game 6.

"Not even during the practices," Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said when asked if he could ever remember the puck reacting as it did on what turned into the season-ending goal.

Bryzgalov, who finished with 25 saves, was distraught over how the change in the puck's direction left him scrambling and helpless.

"I see the puck bounce back and we covered the first guy, but we can't pick up the puck and they score a goal," he said, his voice wavering. "It seems our luck was not tonight."

Minnesota carried the game for long periods but could not find the go-ahead goal after Erik Haula tied it with a burst of speed at 2:29 of the second period.

That goal, Haula's second in as many games, answered a first-period goal by Chicago forward Kris Versteeg, who scored 1:58 into the game on a shot that hit Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner and bounced over Bryzgalov's shoulder.

But after Haula's goal, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford shut down a Minnesota team that was repeatedly dangerous during the last 40 minutes of regulation and finished with 35 shots.

"I felt pretty good," Crawford said. "Our D-men made some big plays, too, on a couple pucks that were sitting there in the blue [of the crease]. They came up big on those ones. It's just sticking with it throughout the whole game and just giving our guys a chance."

In the second period, Crawford stopped 13 of 14 shots, including two double-shot attempts by Justin Fontaine and a spin-o-rama by Cody McCormick.

"He did what he does," Kane said of Crawford, who allowed one goal in Game 5 after allowing eight in the previous two games, each a loss. "He is a great goaltender and we feel he is the best in the League."

The Wild had won their first five home games, beating the Colorado Avalanche three times and winning Games 3 and 4 here against Chicago. In those two games, the Wild outscored the Blackhawks 9-2.

But their home-ice mojo finally dried up with a freakish bounce in Game 6 against a team that knows how to convert such opportunities. It left a rancid taste in the mouths of all the Wild players, who, to a man, insisted there was very little separation between their team and the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"We saw how hard it is and this time of the year how hard you have to play on a nightly basis," Minnesota forward Zach Parise said. "We lost to a very good team, but it's not as if we didn't feel we could have won that series. We had our opportunities. It just didn't go our way.

"It can't get any worse than losing like that. You shouldn't lose like that."

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