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Five reasons Wild were eliminated from playoffs

by Dan Myers / NHL.com

For the third consecutive season, the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks.

This time, the end came in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference Second Round, the first time the Wild had been swept in a playoff series since the 2003 Western Conference Final.

The Wild never scored first and never held a lead.

Here are five reasons the Wild were eliminated:

1. Stars aligned for Blackhawks -- It was a simple recipe for Chicago: Get a bunch of offense from its best players and do everything it could to limit Minnesota's.

Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu combined to give the Wild two goals and five assists to go with a minus-15.

"We didn't do nearly enough," Parise said.

The Blackhawks core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa combined for eight goals and eight assists and was plus-11.

"To me, what impressed me the most about the way they played is the way they defended," Pominville said. "They didn't give us much. Their attention to detail was good, they defended hard and made it tough on us."

2. Special teams -- Minnesota wasn't forced to kill many penalties in the series, but Chicago was able to capitalize on important power plays in Games 3 and 4 at Xcel Energy Center.

Kane's power-play goal in Game 3 was the only goal scored in a 1-0 win. Andrew Shaw scored with the man-advantage in Game 4, giving Chicago a 2-0 lead in the second period.

The Blackhawks also scored two shorthanded goals in the series, including Marian Hossa's empty-netter, which ended up being the game-winner in Game 4.

The Wild scored three power-play goals in the series but were unable to capitalize on three power-play opportunities in a Game 3 defeat that dealt their comeback hopes a major blow.

3. Couldn't solve Crawford -- Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford entered the series with very little momentum. After sitting for the bulk of Chicago's first-round series against the Nashville Predators, Crawford emerged in relief in Game 6, when the Blackhawks rallied for a series-clinching 4-3 win.

After scoring three second-period goals to tie Game 1 3-3, the Wild appeared to have Crawford figured out too.

But he shut down the Wild in Games 2 and 3, making 60 saves on 61 shots, including his fourth shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

4. Regression of Dubnyk -- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk wasn't the reason they lost this series, but is one of the reasons the series was over so quickly.

After stopping 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in a first-round series win against the St. Louis Blues, Dubnyk allowed four goals in Game 1, including a soft one by Teuvo Teravainen from the left half-wall that ended up as the winner.

Dubnyk allowed three goals on 30 shots in a pedestrian Game 2, was rock solid in a 1-0 Game 3 loss, and turned in another so-so effort in Game 4, when he allowed three goals on 24 shots.

His goals-against average of 2.75 with a .901 save percentage paled in comparison to his numbers during his 39-game stretch to end the regular season; a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage.

Goaltenders typically need to steal a game or two this time of year. Dubnyk wasn't able to do that for the Wild in this series.

5. Road woes -- The Wild feasted on opponents away from Xcel Energy Center over the final weeks of the regular season, winning 12 of 13 road games heading into the playoffs.

Minnesota followed that up by winning two of the three games played at Scottrade Center in its series win against the Blues.

But the Wild couldn't keep that momentum against the Blackhawks, who left United Center after Game 2 with a firm grasp on the series. Chicago was able to maintain that edge in St. Paul.

Minnesota is 0-8 in Chicago over their past three playoff series. If these Central Division rivals meet again in the postseason in coming years, the Wild will have to find a way to break the hex at United Center.

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