The Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks were deadlocked going into the third period in St. Paul on Tuesday night. It was game three and the Wild were down two games to none against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Chicago had outshot Minnesota 15-10 through two periods. Chicago wasn’t giving the Wild any shooting lanes and was blocking pretty much every shot. The Blackhawks are great in the defensive zone and they also clog up neutral ice.
How was the Minnesota Wild going crack that defensive wall? Could the Wild pull off a miracle and stay alive in the series? Who was going to be the hero tonight? Was it going to be Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews?
[Keep TiqIQ in mind for your Stanley Cup Finals tickets]
Erik Haula Breaks the Deadlock
You would think that one of the names mentioned above would be the hero. Anyone who watched the first two rounds of the series knew that the Blackhawks could score in bunches and in a short amount of time.
Erik Haula would become the first hero for the Wild in game three. Haula scored a great goal by redirecting a beautiful pass from Justin Fontaine just 1:41 into the third period. The goal would turn out to be the game winner.
The Wild had production from all their star players. The Wild’s outburst of offense is what the Wild needs to continue for the rest of the series. The Wild have greatly outhit the Chicago Blackhawks during the series. Tonight wasn’t any different.
Wild fans have seen leads evaporate in the playoffs and have also seen deadlocked games being broken wide open late in games one and two. The key for the Wild was to remain aggressive in order to stave off an aggressive Blackhawks team.
The Wild knew that the Blackhawks would take chances to try and get the equalizer.
That’s when Mikael Granlund got into the mix. Note to NBC announcers: Granlund’s first name is Mikael (pronounced Mikayal) not Michael. If Erik Hauula’s goal was a great goal, Granlund’s was a thing of beauty as he scored a tic tac toe goal from Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.
That put the Wild up 2-0 and I’m sure that the nail biting started for all Wild fans watching the game at home and at the Xcel Energy Center.
Power Play Nets a Goal
We mentioned Zach Parise above and Zach played a huge role tonight. The Minnesota Wild knew that they would have to get their power play working. The Wild had four power plays and they scored a very important third goal on their fourth power play. It was Zach Parise who netted the goal, off his own rebound. It was a thing of beauty and the fans that were already screaming at the top of their lungs went even crazier. Parise’s goal put the Wild up 3-0.
The announced attendance was the most in the Wild’s history. The crowd came alive when they had to but it did take some time for the fans to get warmed up. It might have had to do with how tight a defensive game this was but once the Wild took control of the game; Wild fans erupted and didn’t let up.
Ilya Bryzgalov has been criticized for his play in the series. I think most of the criticism was unfair. The goals that Chicago scored were good goals. With that said, for teams to be successful in the playoffs, they need their goalies to have games that defy logic. Crawford has been solid between the pipes.
Tonight was different. Bryzgalov made some sensational saves and kept the Wild in the game during the first two periods. He made a couple a huge saves in the third period. It was the type of game that should give his teammates in front of him confidence that he will shut down the door when things break down behind them.
Ilya will have to continue to have games like he had tonight. Wild fans have been waiting for a game like this from him
If the Wild can win game four and tie the series, anything will be possible. The Wild can’t sit back and pray that they will get the breaks. They need to be aggressive for 60 minutes, they need to have the intensity that they had in the third period and they need to hit, hit and hit every Blackhawks player that they can.
The Wild will need to continue to punish the Blackhawks with their tough play. If the Wild plays this aggressive style and continues to hit the Hawks like they did in game three, we’ll be in for a great series.
For the first time in the series, we saw the drama, intensity and excitement that we saw in round one. Now I hope we’re in for more excitement.
Matt Cooke will be eligible to return in game four. I think that the team has done well without him and while his return is inevitable I wish that Mike Yeo will keep him out of the lineup. I’ve talked about my dislike for Matt Cooke in a number of articles.
I don’t think he can be trusted to play a clean game. The last thing this team can afford is for Cooke to lose his mind and play dirty. That could cost this team a game and even the series.