CHICAGO (AP) — No playoff jitters for the Chicago Blackhawks this time. Just a strong start and impressive finish.
Patrick Sharp and Michael Frolik had two goals apiece, and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
Patrick Kane added two assists as Chicago peppered Minnesota goalie Josh Harding after an uneven performance in Game 1 on Tuesday night. Bryan Bickell added an empty-net score to his overtime goal in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory in the playoff opener.
Game 3 is Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.
Devin Setoguchi and Marco Scandella scored for the Wild, who are making their first postseason appearance in five years. Harding, once again subbing for Niklas Backstrom, made 43 saves.
Setoguchi gave the Wild a spark when he teamed with Matt Cullen for a beautiful 2-on-1 rush at end of the second period. Cullen passed across the ice to Setoguchi, who beat Corey Crawford into the upper right corner to trim Chicago’s lead to 2-1.
But the Blackhawks turned up the pressure in the third period, and Sharp stuffed one in from the right side of the net to restore the two-goal advantage. Kane then made a slick pass to set up Sharp for his 25th career playoff goal, putting the game away with six minutes left.
It was one sweet night for Sharp, who missed much of the season with a shoulder injury. He had only six goals and 14 assists in 28 games while the Blackhawks rolled to the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the league this season.
Minnesota squeaked into the playoffs with a victory over Colorado in its final game. But the Blackhawks got off to a slow start in Game 1 and the Wild came close to stealing home-ice advantage.
No such problems this time for Chicago.
While chalking up their slow first period in the playoff opener to nerves, the Blackhawks focused on a better beginning to Game 2 and delivered an impressive start.
Chicago pressured Harding early and finished with 17 shots in the first period, compared to seven for Minnesota. And even with all that pressure, the Blackhawks needed a couple of fortunate caroms to build a 2-0 lead.
Andrew Shaw’s slap shot deflected off Justin Falk and went underneath fellow Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert to Frolik, who flipped it into the upper left corner to put Chicago in front with 11:26 left in the first period. Frolik was in the right place at the right time again in the second, sending Duncan Keith’s deflected pass through Harding’s legs just 49 seconds into the period.
It was the first short-handed goal allowed by the Wild all season and lifted Frolik to six goals in 13 career playoff games.
Shaw also had two assists and Crawford finished with 26 saves in his seventh playoff win for Chicago, which is 19-2 in playoff series when winning the first two games.
The Wild played without goalie Niklas Backstrom and forward Jason Pominville for the second straight game, and defenseman Clayton Stoner also was sidelined by an injury. Backstrom was scratched from Game 1 when he hurt himself during warm-ups, and his return could be key to Minnesota’s hopes of turning around the series.
NOTES: The Wild have not won a playoff game since a 3-2 victory at Colorado on April 14, 2008. The Wild lost the last three games of that quarterfinal series, and then went five years without a postseason appearance before they lost to the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. … Frolik’s short-handed goal was the first for the Blackhawks in the playoffs since Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals against Vancouver.
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