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Wild in familiar position after Game 5 loss

by Shawn Roarke

CHICAGO -- There can be no moral victories for the Minnesota Wild now.

After dropping a 2-1 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of this Western Conference Second Round series at United Center on Sunday night, the Wild are in the all-too-familiar position of needing a win to keep their season alive.

Game 6 at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS2) is a win-or-go-home affair for the Wild, who trail the best-of-7 series, 3-2.

It is the same position they were in during the first round against the Colorado Avalanche and they have followed the same path to the brink of elimination, losing three road games and winning twice at Xcel Energy Center.

Against the Avalanche, the Wild won Game 6 at home and then finally won a road game, rallying repeatedly before an overtime goal by Nino Niederreiter.

The Wild, though, were not in the mood for discussing similarities after being on the wrong end of a one-goal game Sunday.

"It's similar in that it [stinks]," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "It [stinks] to lose a game like this, and obviously when you lose, you're frustrated, you're mad. But I think there's been enough in this series where we should feel confident still. That said, we also recognize that we'd better be ready."

For the first time in this series, the team that scored first did not go on to win the game. Erik Haula gave the Wild a lead in a pitch-perfect first period for the visitors, but they could not hold it, allowing a power-play goal to Bryan Bickell and the winning goal to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.

"They're all hard to take," forward Zach Parise said of the loss. "We started out the game like we wanted to, got the first goal and had a pretty good first period. But they've got good players. You have to expect them to muster some chances."

Now, the Wild must muster a victory to force a deciding seventh game back here Thursday.

"We didn't expect this to be a short series anyway," Parise said.

But the Wild understand that the Blackhawks are a far harder nut to crack than the Avalanche, a young team trying to find its way in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions loaded with superstars and Olympians, a team that knows what it takes to win and overcome adversity.

"It's not going to be easy at all, that's for sure," Niederreiter said. "We definitely had a big chance to take that game tonight, but we let 10 minutes slip and that cost us. We have to forget about this game."

The Wild will reconvene Monday in St. Paul, Minnesota, and plan how they will make another last stand, their third of this postseason. Then, Tuesday, they will try to stay alive and follow the path they blazed in the first round.

It's all they can do now.

"For me, the only thing that matters is next game," Yeo said. "We should be confident. We should feel good about what we're capable of doing here, but to me anything that's happened in the first five games is irrelevant."

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