Blackhawks come back to win Game 5, take 3-2 series lead
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter May 11, 2014 6:26PM
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Updated: May 12, 2014 10:48AM
As they trudged off the ice at the end of the first period, another forgettable 20 minutes mercifully over, a sizable smattering of the Blackhawks faithful at the United Center — the 22,000-plus who’ve seen so much to cheer about in recent seasons — rained boos down on them before Frank Pellico’s organ quickly and loudly drowned them out.
It was hard to blame them. The Hawks were again being outplayed and outworked by the Minnesota Wild — on home ice, no less.
“The crowd was frustrated, we were frustrated,” Marian Hossa said. “We just came to dressing room, we just had to relax and come back. We knew how we need to play, so we needed to just take a deep breath, relax and play hard. I think in the second and third, we were better. And everybody’s happy after the game.”
Indeed, they were cheering as loudly as ever after the Hawks rallied for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of their second-round series. After seven frustrating periods, the Hawks finally re-emerged and re-engaged, taking a 3-2 series lead.
Remarkably, the Hawks have not lost a playoff game after a series has been tied 2-2 in the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane era. They’re now 13-0 in Games 5 and 6 in such series, with a chance to make it 14-0 and advance to the Western Conference final on Tuesday night in St. Paul.
Naturally, Toews scored the game-winner in this one — his league-leading fourth of the playoffs — early in the third period.
“He’s unbelievable,” Hossa said. “That’s why he’s a superstar.”
And it was the kind of gritty goal the Hawks need to score against the Wild — really, the only one the Wild usually allow. Patrick Sharp threw the puck on net, and Wild defenseman Ryan Suter swatted the high rebound out of the air to the slot, where Hossa bulled his way through to the puck and backhanded it to Toews. Toews — who got the play started with a big hit on Mikael Granlund along the boards — then put in his own rebound for the pivotal goal in the pivotal game.
“Just an ugly goal,” Toews said.
For the Wild — who kept fighting and had their chances to tie it late in regulation — it was a bitter defeat. In their first-round win over Colorado, Minnesota lost Game 5 to fall behind 3-2, but came back to win Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road.
Wild coach Mike Yeo wasn’t in the mood to draw comparisons, though.
“It’s similar in that it sucks,” he said. “It sucks 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.:
The reunited top line of Toews, Sharp and Hossa — the line that was arguably the best in hockey for most of the season, before injuries and tinkering broke it up after the Soldier Field game on March 1 — helped change the tone and pace of the game after the Hawks found themselves down 1-0 on Erik Haula’s end-to-end rush goal in the first period.
“It didn’t take very long for us to get her going again,” Toews said. “We were creating chances, we knew exactly what we wanted to do. We picked up where we left off. It’s nice to see that if we get a little consistency with our lines, that the three of us can generate something.”
The Hawks needed it. After putting on two clinics in Minnesota, the Wild again were dictating tempo and style. The Hawks had just six shots on goal in the period.
But the Hawks spoke up in the dressing room, then woke up on the ice. They peppered Ilya Bryzgalov with 15 shots on goal in the second (they had 22 or fewer in each of the first four games of the series). Most of them came from the outside and from bad angles as the Wild continued to steer them to the side and clog the slot, but at least the Hawks were shooting.
It paid off when they tied it 1-1 on Bryan Bickell’s deflection of a Kane shot on the power play midway through the second — a power play generated by a drive to the net by Peter Regin, who gave the Hawks the fourth-line presence they had been sorely lacking in the series.
Then the Hawks got greasy, got the lead, got the crowd, and got a chance to close out the series on Tuesday.
“There are moments where you get ticked off, and get heated and emotion takes over,” Toews said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing — you want a little bit of that when you don’t put up the effort that you want. … I don’t think there’s such thing as frustration getting to us. There’s tough moments, but we overcame it and kept playing and now we’re back in a great situation where we can finish this series off. We know it’s going to take our best game and we know we haven’t played it yet, so it’s perfect timing.”