A stupid stanchion.
The Wild’s season came to a sudden death Tuesday night because of a stupid stanchion.
“We were all kind of in shock that it happened,” Zach Parise said in a silent, stunned locker room after the Wild’s heartbreaking, season-ending 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s not the way you envision losing a series. It can’t get any worse than losing like that.”
Home-ice advantage had been so kind to the Wild all postseason, but the glass around the rink at Xcel Energy Center couldn’t have been more cruel midway through OT.
Chicago’s Brent Seabrook dumped the puck from center ice a few feet from the Blackhawks bench door solely so he could make a line change. But the puck hit a metal stanchion and ricocheted in front of the net and past Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Ryan Suter quickly tied up Peter Regin. But after they overskated the puck, Patrick Kane, the playoff overtime master, roamed free of Matt Cooke and backhanded the puck right under the crossbar.
“If the luck finds me or the heavens above give me some blessings in overtime, I’ll keep taking it,” Kane said after his fourth career playoff overtime winner. “You know, it’s like Johnny [Toews] always finds a way to score game-winners.”
The arena, which had been rocking all night because of scintillating action and overwrought anxiety, came to a total hush with the reality that eight months after the Wild reported for training camp and 13 games into this exciting postseason, the Wild’s season was over.
“It just feels empty,” said Erik Haula, who scored the Wild’s only goal — a second-period tying goal on a breakaway. “I’m sure that goal will be in the back of my head for a long time. It’s a horrible way to end it.’’
“I heard it hit the stanchion. Next thing I see, it’s on Kane’s tape and he goes backhand shot, right under the bar,’’ Haula added. “I knew right away it was in. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that’s how it ended.”
Trying desperately to force a Game 7, the Wild outchanced the Blackhawks again but couldn’t find a way to beat Corey Crawford beyond Haula’s goal — a play in which he turned on the afterburners and caught up to Cooke’s bank pass in the second period. It was Haula’s fifth point in six games this series and fourth goal of the playoffs, tying Parise and Mikael Granlund for the team lead.
Crawford made 26 of his 34 saves in the final two periods plus overtime. The Wild also hit a few pipes and had 21 shots blocked. The Parise-Granlund-Jason Pominville line flirted for a goal all night but couldn’t buy one.
“They’re a great team. Great teams get bounces sometimes,” Haula said. “I was just kind of waiting for us to get one, but it didn’t happen. It went the other way.”
The Blackhawks are 8-0 in Game 6 clinchers in the Jonathan Toews/Kane era, including a 6-0 mark on the road. The defending champs will play the winner of Anaheim and Los Angeles in the Western Conference Final.
“We saw how hard it is, and this time of the year how hard you have to play on a nightly basis,” Parise said. “We lost to a very good team, but it’s not as if we didn’t feel we could have won that series. We had our opportunities. It just didn’t go our way.”
Coach Mike Yeo, in the last year of his contract, was dejected postgame but proud of his team.
“This is a special group,” Yeo said. “Our guys did everything that we asked and they laid it on the line, and that’s what hurts. That’s what’s hard.
“I believe that we’ve created a culture here, an identity and an attitude and they should be proud of that, but it never ends. They just have to keep working … and build on it.”
The only noises in the postgame locker room were devastated players talking to reporters and the sound of tape being ripped off equipment.
“There’s always one team that’s happy at the end of the season. Disappointing to be ending right now,” Parise said.