The Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this afternoon. It’s the Wild’s first win in this Stanley Cup Playoff Quarterfinal series, cutting Chicago’s lead to 2 games to 1. This is the first playoff win for the Wild since 2008 and it was a doozy!! Minnesota came out skating well and had an edge they lacked in the first two games in this best of seven series. The Wild out shot Chicago 37 to 27 and outhit them 34 to 13. The Wild showed some nastiness they sorely lacked in prior games knocking the Blackhawks off their game and seizing the momentum multiple times. Minnesota played a desperate looking game, diving to block shots, shooting from sharp angles and upping their physicality. Rookie Jason Zucker was the hero today firing a shot from a tough angle across Blackhawks goal tender Corey Crawford‘s body and into the upper right corner of the net. The goal was pretty and the pass to set it up was amazing. Matt Cullen got tangled up going behind the net with the puck and went down flat on the ice. While on his stomach he swiped at the puck with his stick sending it directly to Zucker who finished the play and the game. What an effort by the veteran Cullen and the youngster Zucker. Similar efforts all game earned the victory for Minnesota. All three of the Wild’s goal came from with in 5 feet of the net. The Wild players were crashing the net and forechecking hard, a much better effort than Friday night in Chicago. After the game Wild’s Zach Parise said, “I think we can still bring it to another level. Tonight was our best that we’ve played in this series so far. You have to respect the Blackhawks with the experience they have, with how good of a team they have, they are going to take it to another level. So we have to respond and we can bring a little more too”. The Wild and Blackhawks will have an off day tomorrow before meeting again at the “X” Tuesday night at 7 pm (CST). The crown was loud and proud, with an announced attendance of 19,238. Many of the Wild players who haven’t been a part of a playoff game at the Xcel Energy Center said today’s crowd was the loudest they’ve ever heard in St. Paul. Enjoy the victory today guys because tomorrow it’s back to work prepping for game 4.
Minnesota looked much better on offense than in the previous two games. They managed to out shoot Chicago 29 -17 after two periods of play, but the score would be knotted at 1 apiece. The Blackhawks opened the scoring with a goal from Johnny O’Douya, who was wide open to the right of Harding as all five Wild players were focused on Patrick Kane by the opposite circle. A nice pass from Kane to O’Douya ended with a puck in the net behind a sliding Harding, who couldn’t get across in time to make the save. Minnesota would tie the game on a goal from Pierre-Marc Bouchard at the 18:30 mark of the opening period. Bouchard took a nice pass from Cal Clutterbuck, skated across the mouth of the goal and put a backhander up high on Chicago net minder Corey Crawford. That would be the extent of the scoring until the third period. Inbetween Josh Harding was brilliant in net denying several quality scoring chances by the Blackhawks. The Wild would take a 2-1 lead just 3:09 into the final period on a Zach Parise goal. Rookie Charle Coyle made a beauty of a pass from behind the Chicago net hitting a breaking Parise right on his tape. Parise then went top shelf on Crawford’s glove side making the score 2-1 in faver of the Wild. The goal was Parises 22nd of his career in the playoffs, his teams are also now 13-6-0 when he scores in a playoff game. The Blackhawks would tie the game late in regulation when they caught Minnesota on a bad line change. Patrick Kane made a nice pass to Duncan Keith who beat Harding to tie the score at 2 goals each. At the end of regulation the Wild had outshot the Blackhawks 36 to 25. Only some spectacular saves by the Blackhawks’ net minder Crawford throughout the game kept the score at two for Minnesota. In the overtime session the Wild went to work and ended the game with their first shot on goal that came from the stick of Zucker and eluded Crawford for the game winner 2:15 into OT.
Josh Harding was great in goal today. He has been a very pleasant surprise since being thrust into action during warm ups in game one when Niklas Backstrom was injured. Harding is now 1-1 in overtime games and 2-1 overall in this series. I’m sure Yeo will go with him in goal on Tuesday night in game 4. The Wild seem to have gotten the memo after game 2,turn it a notch, a BIG notch. That upped their physical play and intensity exceeding that of the Blackhawks today. One example was Ryan Suter laying some big hits on Chicago’s Jonathon Toews throughout the game. Stephane Veilleux mad his season debut for the Wild and was a wrecking ball out there on the fourth line. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo also gave the crowd some credit saying, “The building was electric and our players fed off that.” Tonight was an excellent team effort with an effective forecheck, a lot of shots on net, big hits, and players sacrificing the body to stop shots from getting to Harding. In his post game comments Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “The big thing is we took what we learned from game two and were able to bring it tonight. As far as what playoff hockey is all about and what we need to do to be a team that’s tough to play against. What the Minnesota Wild need to do next is bring that same fire, that same intensity, that same competitiveness, and that same level of desperation to game 4 Tuesday night. Puck drop is slated for 8:30 pm (CST) in St. Paul. Minnesota held an edge is almost every offensive category. Some individual players had their usual nights, Koivu went 15 for 20 on face offs, Ryan Suter had 32:23 in ice time, Rookie defender Jonas Brodin skated 28:26, and rookie Zucker had a team high 5 shots on goal. Those are just a few of the great individual stats that made up an excellent team effort this afternoon. The Wild payed as a team, a tough team and earned the win. GonePuckWild.com will be with you providing all the Wild news and information you need. I’ll be back with a preview of game 4 Tuesday morning. Enjoy this moment folks, the Minnesota Wild’s first playoff win on home ice in over five years. If you listen closely you can hear myself and fans around the State of Hockey chanting “Let’s Go Wild!!”