ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild played perhaps their best game of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center.
It wasn't enough, though, because Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford shut the door, making 30 saves in a 1-0 win that gave Chicago a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.
As the mountain has grown steeper for the Wild, so has their frustration. Crawford, who was benched for portions of the Blackhawks' first-round series against the Nashville Predators, has rediscovered his game. Now the Wild are one loss away from having their season ended by the Blackhawks for the third straight year.
"Crawford, he's a star against us," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He's [Martin] Brodeur. He's [Patrick] Roy. He's everybody against us, so we've got to find a way to solve that."
Minnesota didn't do much to challenge Crawford during the first period Tuesday. The Blackhawks and Wild each had eight shots on goal, although a majority of Chicago's came from the prime scoring areas.
Patrick Kane, another Wild killer, scored his fourth goal of the series at 14:06 of the first period. At the time, it didn't seem like it would be enough. But it was, thanks to Crawford, who stymied the Wild at every turn.
The Wild's play picked up gradually as the game progressed, and the third period seemed almost like a 20-minute power play for Minnesota.
"I feel like we did [generate enough chances]. I feel every line had some looks, every line had some Grade-A scoring chances," Wild forward Jason Pominville said. "We got to find a way to put one in and we weren't able to do that tonight. Whether it's us, or their goalie doing a good job, I don't know. But if we keep creating like that, we'll have a better chance to win, and tonight just wasn't one of those nights we were able to find a way."
Yeo said the Wild need to find a way to get the first goal, citing the Blackhawks' ability to play a sound, structured defensive game when they're able to play with a lead. Chicago is 29-0-0 this season when leading after two periods, and after three games in this series, Minnesota is still searching for its first lead; the Blackhawks have led for 122:40.
"Against that team there's a big difference when they score first," Yeo said. "It gives them the ability to sit back and defend a little bit more and forces us to, not open up, but it's a little more difficult in terms of creating some situations."
The Wild were able to create opportunities Tuesday, but they couldn't capitalize. Minnesota's forward group has been held off the scoresheet in each of the past two games and will need to find a way to get something by Crawford in Game 4 on Thursday.
"We had a lot of chances and couldn't bear down," Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said. "It's definitely frustrating; we had plenty of chances to win this hockey game. I feel that we played a really good game. We played solid. Now we have to find a way to regroup and get a win."
Minnesota will attempt to join the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers and the 2014 Los Angeles Kings as teams to climb out of a 3-0 hole in a best-of-7 series in the past six years. The Kings did so in the first round against the San Jose Sharks and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The others to do it in NHL history are the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Detroit Red Wings.
For now, the Wild are simply worrying about getting a win in Game 4 and keeping themselves in the playoffs for another day.
"We just have to look at it as game by game now," Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle said. "It's up to us. We're still breathing. We're still alive here. And it's just up to us and get that next one."