By Craig D. Schroepfer, WCCO Radio
History has a tendency to repeat itself.
For the third playoff series in a row, the Minnesota Wild went into Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center looking for their first win, being down two games to none. And thanks to a pair of Finns, the Wild got that victory on home ice, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. Chicago now leads the series two games to one with Game 4 on Friday night.
Minnesota came out in Game 3 with the same game plan it used on home ice against Colorado in the previous round: limit scoring chances by taking space away from the Blackhawks, and attack on offense in the Chicago zone.
For two periods the plan had mixed results. The Wild were able to contain the Blackhawks’ offense, holding them to seven shots in the first period and eight shots in the second period. However Minnesota was unable to match the same offensive output as they did against the Avalanche, with Chicago holding the Wild to only five shots in each period.
As the third period began, the feeling was that the team who score the first goal would be the team who would go on to win the game. At 1:41 of the third period, it was Minnesota who got the first goal as Erik Haula scored on a pass from Justin Fontaine. The play was a lob pass that you would normally see in the English Premier League, not the NHL. Fontaine was able to flip the puck in front of three Chicago players, onto Haula’s stick where all he had to do was tip it pass Crawford, giving the Wild a 1-0 lead.
Nearly three minutes later, it was Mikael Granlund’s turn, taking a puck from Jason Pominville and splitting two Blackhawks defenders before beating Crawford on a backhand shot to give Minnesota a two goal lead. Granlund would also add an empty net goal near the end of the game to cement the 4-0 victory.
The win for the Wild was simply a case of sticking with their game plan for 60 minutes, according to Haula.
“People thought it might be a case of being careful in the beginning, but with the support of our fans and the confidence of playing at home, we knew if we stuck with our game for 60 minutes we would have a chance to win,” Haula said.
Head Coach Mike Yeo says the team’s goal throughout the playoffs is to progressively get better.
“I think we are better in a lot of areas and we are more confident,” Yeo said. “Getting that first win against Chicago was important for us.”
With the win, Minnesota was able to get back in the series. Game 4 is Friday night and the challenge will be to try and even the series and make it a best of three going back to Chicago, instead of facing elimination like last year – something that isn’t lost on the Wild players.
“Now it’s a new series again. It’s 2-1 and we are playing the next game at home,” said Mikael Granlund. “We need to enjoy this win for a little bit and then move on. We have our next big challenge on Friday.”