After taking a commanding 3-1 series lead Tuesday night in Minnesota, the Chicago Blackhawks returned to the United Center Thursday night with a chance to close the series. Behind great performances from Corey Crawford and Marian Hossa, the Hawks were able to put the nail in the coffin and advance to the Western Conference Semi Finals with a 5-1 win.
With their playoff lives on the line, the Wild came out fast and furious trying to quiet the building. The Wild had a number of quality chances early, including a point blank shot from Wild captain Mikko Koivu , but Crawford made a couple spectacular saves to keep the game scoreless. Crawford continued his strong first round making save after save and gave the Hawks some momentum.
As the first period was winding down, Jonathan Toews made a steal in the Wild’s zone and dished in the Hossa who snuck it past Josh Harding. It was the first point of the playoffs for the captain. The late period goal took some of energy out of the Wild and the Hawks came on strong in the second.
Just over three minutes into the third, Marcus Kruger beat Harding five hole for his first career playoff goal. A couple of minutes later, Hossa was able to beat Harding to a puck in front of the net and was able to beat him to give the Hawks a big 3-0 lead. That would be all for Harding as Darcy Kuemper came on in relief for the second straight game.
Minnesota tried to get back in the game as Torrey Mitchell was finally able to beat Crawford. But the Hawks responded quickly and Andrew Shaw scored just 35 seconds later. The game was just about over from that point as the Hawks picked up the defense.
Patrick Sharp was able to score his fifth goal of the playoffs in the third period to finish of the Wild, 5-1.
The Blackhawks now advance to the second round. Everyone will get some well deserve rest as the Hawks await their next opponent. With the San Jose Sharks sweeping the Vancouver Canucks, the Hawks could either play them or the Detroit Red Wings,who are down 3-2 to Anaheim.
The Hawks do escape the first round pretty healthy for the most part. Center David Bolland and goalie Ray Emery hope to be back for the second round.