ST. PAUL, Minn. — Patrick Kane scored on a backhand at 9:42 of overtime to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 to clinch their second-round Western Conference series on Tuesday night.
Kris Versteeg scored at 1:58 of the first and Corey Crawford came up with tough save after tough save among his 34 stops for the Blackhawks, who advanced to the Western Conference finals to meet either Anaheim or Los Angeles. Anaheim leads that series 3-2 and Game 6 is Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Erik Haula scored and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots for the Wild, who pushed a frenetic pace for much of the night but missed prime chances to score.
They paid for it in the extra period, when a simple dump-in by Brent Seabrook took an unusual bounce back toward the slot. The puck slid past Peter Regin but not Kane, who deked once and flipped it into the net.
Booed as they left the ice after the first period at home in Game 5, the defending Stanley Cup champions Blackhawks rebounded.
Since 2009, the first post-season appearance for Kane and co-star Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are 14-0 in Games 5 and 6 of playoff series that were tied after Game 4. They’re also 12-2 in games with a chance to win a series, including 6-1 on the road.
The Blackhawks’ stifling penalty kill unit, continuing to give the Wild no space to shoot, fended off two more power plays in the third period to drop the Wild to 2 for 20 in the series.
The Wild kept up the pressure on Crawford they created in the middle of the game, but whether it was the goalie’s pads, blocker or a crossbar in the way, the pucks didn’t go in.
Wild coach Mike Yeo joked in the morning his team’s “survival instincts” have been better than its “killer instincts.”
By not getting more shots past Crawford that’s about the way this game went for them in their first home loss of the post-season.
The Blackhawks scored first in six of their previous 11 games in these playoffs and won each time, their only victory without taking the first lead coming in Game 5 against the Wild.
Versteeg put them right back in control just 1:58 in, when he outmuscled Keith Ballard for possession in the corner and flipped an bad-angle shot that bounced awkwardly among the bodies around the crease, hit the back of Clayton Stoner’s leg and skidded past Bryzgalov.
Versteeg’s ice time has dwindled and he’s been scratched three times this post-season, but he produced a big one on his 28th birthday.
The Wild got their break — or, rather, breakaway — soon after the first intermission when Haula sped to snag a pass by Matt Cooke that banked perfectly off the boards.
Barely but deftly staying ahead of Johnny Oduya’s diving attempt to stop him, Haula snapped the puck past Crawford’s glove to tie the game and ignite another round of derisive chants of the goalie’s last name that began even before the opening faceoff.
Haula’s emergence this spring has been a boon for the Wild, who gave their 2009 seventh-round draft pick three stints in the AHL this season before making him a permanent fixture in the lineup.
He tied Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund for the team lead in the playoffs with four goals.
Each side brought an aggressive game plan, with defencemen pinching down often and all kinds of rushes developing both ways.
Particularly in that breathless penalty-free second period that had the home team buzzing so much that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville used his timeout.
Crawford made two saves apiece on a pair of breakaways by Justin Fontaine. Jason Pominville had a wide-open rebound try knocked aside at the last second.
Cody McCormick tried a spin move to fend off Duncan Keith and nearly got the puck past Crawford, who used his left pad to stop it.
Not to be outdone in that stretch, Bryzgalov calmly thwarted a breakaway by Patrick Sharp.