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Wild won't fret even though they trail again

by Mike G. Morreale

CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild again face an uphill battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks made certain of that in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round on Friday when they scored three straight goals to snap a tie on the way to a 5-2 victory against the Wild at United Center.

It's nothing new to the Wild, who spent all of their first-round series playing from behind against the Colorado Avalanche before finally winning Game 7 in Denver for their first postseason series victory in 11 years. The Wild overcame 2-0 and 3-2 series deficits and four one-goal deficits in Game 7 before Nino Niederreiter's overtime goal gave them a 5-4 win.

Wild coach Mike Yeo was asked if that confidence gained against the Avalanche will be put to good use against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"We're not fretting here," Yeo said. "The next game is what I'm looking forward to right now but I know [Chicago] will be better next game. This is a veteran team that recognizes the importance of that game, and they taught us a lesson last year in Game 2 where we thought we could have won but they taught us a lesson.

"We have to recognize the importance of [Game 2]. We know they will recognize it. The areas where we weren't good enough and the guys who know they can bring more, will be ready to bring it."

In their five-game, first-round loss to Blackhawks last spring, the Wild won Game 3 but were outscored 8-1 in Games 4 and 5. The Wild had several opportunities throughout this Game 1, outshooting their opponent 32-22. They won three of five regular-season games against the Blackhawks, going 2-1-0 in St. Paul and 1-0-1 in Chicago.

"We had some good jump and lot of good zone time and rush chances," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "We feel good about what we did, but at the same time we have to understand that this is a team that has players that have won the Cup twice and they're going to turn their game up a notch, I guarantee that."

Among the many positives the Wild can take away from the loss was the performance of their top line with Mikael Granlund centering Parise and Jason Pominville. It accounted for two points and nine shots against goalie Corey Crawford (30 saves).

"They're going to be a lot better in Game 2 and now it's up to us to match that and improve our game too," Parise said. "But I think we should expect them to be a much better team next game."

Game 2 is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, RDS, TSN). Yeo said his team could have delivered even more and anticipates a better showing.

"We had some good moments in the game, but what it came down to is we weren't complete enough to win this hockey game," he said. "We weren't complete enough collectively and individually. Even at that, like I said, there were some good moments, but trust me, we're not happy with our game. I felt that we didn't have everybody at the level that we needed to be at, so we'll rectify that. We recognize that they'll be better next game, and with that we'll make sure that we're better to."

One key for success might be keeping close tabs on Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, who scored two goals on four shots in Game 1 and broke the 2-2 tie.

"I thought we had momentum in the game but it was a good goal by [Kane]," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said. "A good team like that has players who can take the game over and we just have to know that and be aware of it."

Stoner, who was one of Minnesota's best players with three shots and a team-leading six hits, said the series victory against the Avalanche has given the Wild confidence to overcome any obstacle.

"We proved to ourselves in the last series that we're never out of a game, and I think even when [Chicago] took a 3-2 lead in the third, we on the bench believed," Stoner said. "We still had a couple chances after that but they just didn't go in."


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