Zucker’s OT goal gives Wild win; Hawks lead series 2-1
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com May 5, 2013 5:19PM
Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker celebrates his overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, May 5, 2013, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 3-2. (AP Photo/Andy King)
Updated: May 6, 2013 11:53AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — They plastered players against the boards, they shoved players out of the crease, and they facewashed players after whistles. They looked aggressive, they looked desperate, they looked mean.
The Minnesota Wild found their “hatred.” As a result, the Blackhawks find themselves in a real battle.
Jason Zucker’s sharp-angle goal 2:15 into overtime capped a fiery performance for the Wild and gave Minnesota a 3-2 victory in its first home playoff game in five years before a raucous crowd in the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey.” The Hawks still take a 2-1 series lead into Tuesday’s Game 4 at the Xcel Energy Center, but the Wild sent a clear message that they won’t let the Hawks run free as they did in a Game 2 romp.
It was the kind of desperate, “hostile” hockey Wild coach Mike Yeo called for before the game, when he said he wanted his players to find the “hatred” for the Hawks that fuels great series.
“When you put on a Minnesota Wild jersey, it should be a staple of your game,” Yeo said of that aggression after the game. “That’s what winners bring night in, night out.”
Minnesota out-shot the Hawks 37-27 and out-hit the Hawks 34-13, dominating play at both ends of the ice. Cal Clutterbuck dished out eight hits, while Devin Setoguchi delivered seven — combining for more checks than the entire Hawks roster.
The Hawks certainly noticed.
“Game 2 was different from Game 1, and this was different from Game 2,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, still without a point through three playoff games. “We know it’s going to get more and more intense as the series goes along, and more and more personal, too.”
Despite the Wild’s hungrier, more aggressive play on the ice, it wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard. At the end of a thoroughly dominant second period in which Crawford (34 saves) single-handedly kept the game within reach for the Hawks, the game was still tied 1-1 on first-period goals by Johnny Oduya and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. In fact, the final sequence of the second period — Zucker getting stoned by Crawford, but obliterating Brent Seabrook after the shot at the horn— was emblematic of the Wild’s effort: impressive, but largely fruitless.
That changed when Charlie Coyle beat Michal Rozsival to a loose puck behind the Hawks net and threaded a centering pass through Toews to Zach Parise, who flipped a backhander past Crawford for a 2-1 lead 3:09 into the third.
But the goal seemed to satiate the hungry Wild, as they sat back to protect the lead rather than extend it. That allowed the Hawks to take over, and eventually tie it on Duncan Keith’s goal with 2:46 left in regulation, giving the Hawks all the momentum heading into overtime.
But it took just 2:15 for Zucker to beat Crawford from nearly a 90-degree angle along the goal line for the game-winner, a disappointing end to a phenomenal effort for the Hawks goalie.
“I didn’t pick it up right away, but I thought I had the short side covered there; obviously not,” Crawford said. “Tough one. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. Just got to get some rest, and get ready for next game.”
That next game could have been for a sweep. Instead, the Wild seized momentum and will try to level the series before it heads back to Chicago.
Now the Wild know what it takes to skate with, slow down and beat the mighty Hawks. And now the Hawks know exactly what to expect from the resurgent Wild the rest of the way.
“They were obviously the hungrier team, and we know we need to be better,” Keith said. “It was a close game, but they deserved to win.”