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Hawks top Wild to open 2-0 lead, but series has been closer than it looks

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blackhawks 4, wild 1

Minnesota 0 0 1 — 1

BLACKHAWKS 1 1 2 — 4

First Period­—1, HAWKS, Toews 4 (Hossa, Bickell), 11:02. Penalties—Stoner, Min (cross-checking), 3:29.

Second Period­—2, HAWKS, Saad 1 (Bickell, Seabrook), 19:04. Penalties—Leddy, HAWKS (high-sticking), 10:54; Fontaine, Min (hooking), 17:02.

Third Period—3, Minnesota, McCormick 1 (Stoner, Haula), 2:00. 4, HAWKS, Bickell 5 (Hossa, Hjalmarsson), 17:15. 5, HAWKS, Saad 2 (Hossa, Hjalmarsson), 18:37 (en). Penalties—None.

Shots on Goal—Minnesota 2-13-4—19. HAWKS 7-8-7—22.

Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 0 of 1; HAWKS 0 of 2.

Goalies—Minnesota, Bryzgalov 1-4-0 (21 shots-18 saves). HAWKS, Crawford 6-2-0 (19-18).

Referees—Kevin Pollock, Marc Joannette. Linesmen—Shane Heyer, Jay Sharrers.

A—22,018 (19,717). T—2:20.

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Two games into the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blackhawks were down 2-0. So were the Minnesota Wild. Yet here they are, still playing in the second round, while the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche lament lost leads.

So after two victories that weren’t nearly as easy as the final scores suggested, the Hawks think they’re still in a series that’s not nearly as easy as it looks.

‘‘You don’t want to get carried away,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said after a 4-1 victory Sunday put the Hawks up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Wild. ‘‘You’ve seen in some other series, whether you’re up 2-0 or 3-0, there’s no time to get comfortable at all. You have to keep playing and keep improving every single game as you go through a series because it’s only going to get tougher.’’

Yes, the Hawks have won six games in a row. Yes, Bryan Bickell has flipped the postseason switch, adding a goal and two assists Sunday. Yes, the Hawks have been suffocating the Wild’s top two lines, with Toews acting as Zach Parise’s designated chaperone.

Despite that, though, the Hawks haven’t exactly been dominant. The Wild erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period of Game 1 to make a game of it. And they were a spectacular stick swat by Corey Crawford away from doing it again in Game 2. All the Hawks have done is hold serve at home.

‘‘We weren’t that far off,’’ Wild coach Mike Yeo said. ‘‘That game was hanging for us. . . . Last series, I thought we did a great job of staying positive. Despite the fact that we were down 2-0, we still believed that we could win. That, to me, is the No. 1 thing. We’re a play or two each game away from at least a split right now.’’

The difference is, the Hawks’ biggest stars are making those plays and the Wild’s aren’t. A game after Patrick Kane was the hero, the Hawks got three assists from Marian Hossa, another goal from Toews, the big game from Bickell and a combined 10 blocked shots from Brent Seabrook and Niklas
Hjalmarsson. Meanwhile, the Wild’s three goals this series have come from a defenseman, a third-liner and a fourth-liner.

‘‘It’s a team game,’’ said Parise, who had 10 points in the first round. ‘‘We’re down. We should all feel pressure that we’re down 2-0. That’s all.’’

For the second consecutive game, the Hawks held a 2-0 lead entering the third period. Toews beat Mikko Koivu to a loose puck in the crease after Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made a terrific save on a breakaway by Hossa in the first period, and Brandon Saad ended a 19-game goal drought with a nasty wrist shot in the final minute of
the second.

But after managing only four shots on goal through the first 30 minutes, the Wild turned it on and had the Hawks on their heels. Fourth-liner Cody McCormick scored two minutes into the third to make a game of it, and the Wild had a couple of golden chances to tie
before Bickell scored on a two-on-one with 2:45 left and Saad chipped in an empty-netter to seal it.

The Wild, noticeably fatigued from their seven-game series against the Avalanche, haven’t been at their best in this series. Bryz-
galov has been shaky at times, and the Hawks often have been clicking on all cylinders.

Yet the Wild were right there in the third period of both games.

The Hawks expect nothing less as the series shifts north, where a rabid, hockey-mad fan base awaits.

‘‘There are no easy games, no easy series,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Never get ahead of yourself, particularly in the playoffs.’’


Twitter: @MarkLazerus

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