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Corey Crawford’s heroics, Patrick Kane’s OT winner send Hawks to Western Conference finals

ST PAUL MN - MAY 13: Mikael Granlund #64 MinnesotWild checks Jonathan Toews #19 Chicago Blackhawks inboards during first period

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 13: Mikael Granlund #64 of the Minnesota Wild checks Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks into the boards during the first period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 488087845

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blackhawks 2,
WIld 1 (OT)

BLACKHAWKS 1 0 0 1 — 2

Minnesota 0 1 0 0 — 1

First Period­—1, HAWKS, Versteeg 1, 1:58. Penalties—Hjalmarsson, HAWKS (tripping), 6:31; Cooke, Min (boarding), 9:15.

Second Period—2, Minnesota, Haula 4 (Cooke, Stoner), 2:29. Penalties—None.

Third Period—None. Penalties—Bickell, HAWKS (high-sticking), 2:12; Hjalmarsson, HAWKS (delay of game), 7:05.

First Overtime—3, HAWKS, Kane 6 (Seabrook, Keith), 9:40. Penalties—None.

Shots on Goal—HAWKS 8-8-6-5—27. Minnesota 9-14-7-5—35.

Power-play opportunities—HAWKS 0 of 1; Minnesota 0 of 3.

Goalies—HAWKS, Crawford 8-4-0 (35 shots-34 saves). Minnesota, Bryzgalov 3-6-0 (27-25).

Referees—Steve Kozari, Brad Watson. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Pierre Racicot.

A—19,396 (17,954). T—2:58.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Patrick Kane has done this before, you know. Hostile crowd at a fever pitch, overtime, series on the line — then a shot, then mass confusion, then silence and despair in the arena, pierced only by the jubilant shouts of a couple dozen visitors.

Only this time, even Kane didn’t know he had scored. So there was no “heartbreaker” punch. No “King of the World” bear hug. No “Showtime” shout. Just an uncertain look over his shoulder, a Patrick Sharp just-in-case rebound, and then a moderate — by Blackhawks standards, at least — on-ice celebration.

“It was a weird feeling tonight, because at first you didn’t know if it was in,” Kane said after his overtime goal beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in Game 6 on Tuesday night to send the Hawks into the Western Conference final. “The first one, against Philly (to win the 2010 Stanley Cup), I knew it was in. Tonight, I didn’t really know. But when you turn around and you see the puck in the net, anyway, it’s a good feeling. It was exciting.”

After spending all night on their heels, dominated in every facet but the scoreboard, the Hawks won on what Kane called a “wacky bounce.” Brent Seabrook rimmed the puck in from the red line along the boards, but the puck took a funky kick off the back boards and came right to Kane, who roofed it over Ilya Bryzgalov’s head. The puck hit the top of the inside of the net and bounced out to create the confusion, and Sharp smacked it back in for good measure.

It was the third time Kane has ended a series with an overtime winner. Now the Hawks will get at least a couple days off before facing either the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim leads that series 3-2, with Game 6 in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Hawks would have home ice against the Kings, but not against the Ducks.

By all rights, the Wild should have won this one in regulation. They had the speed, they had the strength, they had the hustle, they had the work ethic, they had the aggression. And they had chance after chance after chance.

But they didn’t have Corey Crawford. Nor did they have the Hawks’ remarkable knack for closing out series. They’re now 8-0 in Game 6’s in the Toews-Kane era when they can win a series, including 6-0 on the road.

“We just have that confidence going into overtime,” Crawford said. “We felt like we were going to get it done.”

Crawford was the only reason the Hawks even made it to overtime. After Kris Versteeg scored early in the first (on another fluky play from behind the goal) and Erik Haula tied it early in the second on a breakaway, the game turned into a track meet, a breathless barrage of golden scoring chances.

Just like in the second period of Game 6 against St. Louis, when the Blues outshot the Hawks 17-3, Crawford bailed his team out, making 14 stops in the second period and 34 in the game. Unlike against St. Louis, Crawford had to keep doing it in the third.

“I’m sure he wasn’t the happiest with us, the way we were playing in front of him,” Kane said. “But he did what he does. He’s a great goaltender, and we feel he’s the best in the league for that reason.”

Crawford made just enough big stops and dodged just enough bullets to get the game to overtime. And that’s where Kane did what he does.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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