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Wild 4, Hawks 2: Offense is mild against Wild in Game 4

MinnesotWild right wing JasPominville (29) scores Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford front Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) during second period

Minnesota Wild right wing Jason Pominville (29) scores on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford in front of Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, May 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) ORG XMIT: MNAH109

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WILD 4, BLAckhawks 2

BLACKHAWKS 1 1 0 — 2

Minnesota 1 2 1 — 4

First Period­—1, Minnesota, Fontaine 1 (Cooke), 7:24. 2, HAWKS, Sharp 2 (Hossa, Rozsival), 19:21. Penalties—Morin, HAWKS (slashing), 7:43; Koivu, Min (holding stick), 13:49.

Second Period—3, Minnesota, Pominville 2 (Suter, Parise), 3:51. 4, HAWKS, Handzus 1 (Seabrook, Hossa), 6:28. 5, Minnesota, Niederreiter 3 (Coyle, Spurgeon), 7:12. Penalties—Smith, HAWKS (delay of game), 12:02; Bollig, HAWKS (boarding), 17:13; Spurgeon, Min (elbowing), 17:49.

Third Period—6, Minnesota, Spurgeon 3 (Koivu, Suter), 3:47 (pp). Penalties—Keith, HAWKS (hooking), :45; Rozsival, HAWKS (closing hand on puck), 3:28.

Shots on Goal—HAWKS 4-9-7—20. Minnesota 7-18-6—31.

Power-play opportunities—HAWKS 0 of 2; Minnesota 1 of 5.

Goalies—HAWKS, Crawford 6-4-0 (31 shots-27 saves). Minnesota, Bryzgalov 3-4-0 (20-18).

Referees—Dave Jackson, Dan OíRourke. Linesmen—Derek Nansen, Derek Amell.

A—19,405 (17,954). T—2:32.

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Updated: May 10, 2014 12:32AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It would be easy to look at the scoresheet from Friday, circle the ‘‘20’’ in the shots column and assume that explains the Blackhawks’ disheartening 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild in
Game 4 of their second-round series.

But the Hawks’ problems — in this game and now in this series, as the Wild evened things at 2-2 heading back to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday — went far deeper than that.

It’s true, the Hawks were
unable to get the puck on net to take advantage of a shaky Ilya
Bryzgalov in the early going,
eschewing simple and direct plays for fancy stickhandling and slick drop passes that went nowhere. But the Hawks also were unable to hold on to the puck, with typically reliable defensemen such as Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival coughing it up and leading to odd-man rushes the other way. They lost puck battles in the corners. They gave up on plays halfway up the ice. They didn’t give goalie Corey Crawford much help, and Crawford didn’t bail them out nearly enough.

A lot of things went wrong in Game 4, but captain Jonathan Toews said it all came down to the same thing.

‘‘It’s reflecting our intensity,’’ Toews said. ‘‘They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We’ve got to do the same. I don’t really know how to
explain it. We’ve got to be better.’’

The game was another reminder that this isn’t the same Wild team the Hawks beat in five games last spring. The Wild are now 5-0 at home in the playoffs, bringing the high-speed, high-skill Colorado
Avalanche and Hawks down to their level. In the first four games of this series, the Hawks have had only 22, 22, 19 and 20 shots on goal — far
below their regular-season average of 33.1 per game.

‘‘I looked up at the clock in the second period there,’’ Keith said. ‘‘We had nine shots.’’

Credit the Wild as much as you blame the Hawks. They came out flying, with Matt Cooke — freed from a seven-game suspension — wreaking havoc, smearing Keith on his first shift and forcing a turnover by Nick Leddy with a hit on his second. Then, seven minutes into the game, he forced a turnover by Rozsival that led to a goal by Justin Fontaine and a 1-0 lead.

The Hawks managed to tie the score with 38.2 seconds left in the first when Patrick Sharp flung the puck on net and beat Bryzgalov between the legs. It was a soft goal and a big break for the Hawks, who had only four shots in the period.

But the Wild didn’t wilt. Jason Pominville banked the puck off Crawford’s right skate from behind the net at 3:51 of the second period
to give them a 2-1 lead. Michal
Handzus tied it less than three minutes later by deflecting in a shot by Brent Seabrook from the point.

The Wild again responded, though, as Nino Niederreiter beat Crawford from the left circle 44 seconds later to give them a 3-2 lead.

Jared Spurgeon then roofed a power-play goal 3:47 into the third period with Rozsival in the box for closing his hand on the puck to seal a potential series-changing victory for the Wild.

‘‘It’s playoff hockey,’’ Toews said. ‘‘It’s not supposed to be easy. There are going to be some
moments where your stomach drops and you’re not feeling like everything’s going your way. That’s the way it goes. You’ve got to find a way to battle through that and create something out of nothing.’’

They’d better do it in Chicago. Because in St. Paul, all they’ve created is the nothing.


Twitter: @MarkLazerus

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