By Chris Emma–
ST PAUL, Minn. (CBS) — Lights flashed and pumped-in sound rocked the Xcel Energy Center, setting the scene for Game 3 in the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey.”
Third time’s the charm was the message gleamed onto the ice and shouted by the public address announcer. Was it referring to the Wild hoping to avoid a third straight loss to the Blackhawks or a third consecutive season ending to the same foe?
In the end, none of it mattered. Patrick Kane scored a power-play goal, Corey Crawford stopped all 30 shots he faced and Chicago took a 3-0 series lead with a 1-0 win on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks took advantage of a scoring chance, played disciplined defense and Crawford was a brick wall in net.
“It was a great game for him,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a goalie win.”
St. Paul is now a desperate place. The energy of the opening minutes dissipated with the Blackhawks’ steady play. In the second period, a cartoon Batman came to the video board and encouraged fans to stand up and cheer.
With a 1-0 Chicago lead holding strong, the loudest non-manufactured sound was from Wild star Zach Parise slamming his stick to the boards, which echoed throughout the building.
Fans flooded to the exit with seconds left in the third period, while a video from “300” suggested they stay strong. It felt like the minor leagues in a swanky arena. The home crowd had little to cherish.
“We knew these guys were going to be hungry in their building,” Crawford said.
At times, it seemed as if Minnesota was just snake-bitten. The Wild saw scoring chances — one puck even trickled behind Crawford toward the line, but he somehow scurried it away — and couldn’t convert.
The one and only goal came 14:06 into the first period, as Kane breezed from the defensive zone by every Wild player and found himself on an island with goaltender Devan Dubnyk. A wicked wrister found the net. The Blackhawks weathered the storm, then took control.
“I’m just happy to be part of this team,” Kane said later when asked about his performance.
Entering Tuesday’s tilt in the Twin Cities, the Blackhawks had dropped a road Game 3 seven straight times, including two consecutive times in St. Paul. They faced a daunting defensive test in the Wild, in a building that prides itself on bringing the noise, and a chance to take a 3-0 series lead.
The Blackhawks eliminated the crowd, controlled the puck possession and worked diligently in their defensive zone. Crawford did the rest.
Mike Yeo, Minnesota’s coach who not-so-boldly declared the Wild would win this series, spoke like a broken man when asked about Crawford.
“Crawford, he’s a star against us,” Yeo said. “He’s Brodeur, he’s Roy, he’s everybody against us.”
Yeo’s Wild look distraught, too. In their last effort, when Dubnyk was pulled in the final minute, they struggled to get set in the offensive zone with the extra attacker on the ice.
When the final horn sounded, Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu slumped over with his glare toward the ice. Ryan Suter rushed right to the exit. They poured everything into this game and got chance after chance but were denied.
Xcel Energy Center gave all it could, from Batman to the “NOISE METER” and even a plea from King Leonidas and “300.” There were songs, lights and battle cries from the “State of Hockey,” but it all ended with a horn and silence.
Game 3 and complete command of this series went to the Blackhawks.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.