ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund scored goals less than 3 minutes apart early in the third period, and the Minnesota Wild recovered from a sluggish start for a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal series.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 19 saves for his first shutout in the playoffs in eight years, and the Blackhawks had their lead whittled to 2-1 with their first loss in 2½ weeks.
Zach Parise put the exclamation point on the win with a power-play goal, the first in 25 chances for the Wild over their last two playoff series against the Blackhawks. Then Granlund tacked on an empty-netter with 1:17 left.
Game 4 is Friday in Minnesota.
Corey Crawford stopped only 14 shots for the Blackhawks, who dropped their first two games to St. Louis in the last round before winning four in a row. Since losing to the Blues on April 19, they took the lead in all six games and outscored their opponents 23-9.
The announced attendance of 19,416 was the most in franchise history, but the atmosphere didn’t match that until shortly after the second intermission. Pucks were whizzing way wide of the net, and clogged shooting lanes led to plenty of thwarted opportunities for both sides. Then Haula finally brought the fans to their feet.
The rookie center from Finland, who was a standout for the University of Minnesota, started the play from the neutral zone and finished in front of the rush for a tap-in of Justin Fontaine’s slick pass through the defense.
Then Granlund took a pass from Jason Pominville and went to his backhand to slip a high shot past Crawford’s glove for the 2-0 lead.
The blue liners were in full force early for Blackhawks, who blocked a whopping 25 shots in Game 2, six more than the Wild even sent at the net. Niklas Hjalmarsson bravely took one on the neck Sunday, and while the seventh-year veteran was cleared to play, the Swede wasn’t allowed to talk. Coach Joel Quenneville said before the game he wasn’t worried about any communication problems between Hjalmarsson and his teammates.
Had he been able to yell, Hjalmarsson would’ve been easy to hear for most of the night. For all the noise this crowd made in the last round, the synergy between vocal fan support and a relentless attack by the Wild was largely missing.
The Wild came in facing the same two-game deficit they escaped against Colorado in the last round to outlast the Avalanche in overtime of Game 7. The difference, though, was the Wild haven’t been nearly as successful in generating legitimate scoring chances in this series. The confidence that comes from spending the majority of the game in an opponent’s zone has been absent.
Wild coach Mike Yeo has said in recent days his team must clear “the mental hurdle” of facing an opponent with two of the last four Stanley Cup titles. Despite earning seven of 10 possible points against the Blackhawks during the regular season, the Wild entered this game 1-6 in two playoff series against them and scoreless in 21 power plays.
NOTES: The Blackhawks scratched defenseman Nick Leddy, his first absence since his rookie season of 2010-11. … The Wild briefly lost defenseman Ryan Suter, the NHL ice time leader in the regular season, when he hurt his right arm falling to the ice in a tangle with Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa in the second period. Suter returned for the third period.
(© 2014by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)