In the first two periods Tuesday night, the goal light on the 7th Street end zone got a workout, but only because it was broken.
But the Wild, after cracking in Chicago, didn’t crack in this patient, make the neutral zone look like I-94 at rush hour, hockey game. Nothing was happening in the first two periods. Nada.
But then, out of nowhere, thanks in large part to its young talent, the Wild broke through with speed and skill during a four-goal third period to take a 4-0 Game 3 win over the Blackhawks.
Ilya Bryzgalov silenced his critics for a few days by making 19 saves for his first shutout in almost eight years to the day – May 7, 2006. It was the second Wild playoff shutout in history (Darcy Kuemper in Game 3 vs. Colorado last round).
“Today was a tremendous team effort,” Bryzgalov said. “We played nice hockey. We tried to avoid big mistakes, tried to not let them play where they play best.”
With two off-days, the Blackhawks flew home to Chicago and will return Thursday afternoon. The Wild has Wednesday off, will then practice Thursday before Game 4 Friday at the X. Remember, the Wild won Game 3 against the Blackhawks in the first round last year but lost Game 4 and then the series in five games.
1. Erik Haula arguably should have been awarded a penalty shot in the first period when Duncan Keith hooked his right wrist on a shorthanded breakaway. Haula lost the puck, but he created a chance for himself again to open the third. In a 0-0 game, Erik Haula crossed a neutral-zone pass to Justin Fontaine (Matt Moulson first intercepted it), then flew into the offensive zone. When Fontaine made a flip pass, Haula flew by Patrick Kane and caught the alley-oop and buried it. It was an awesome pass, especially when one considers it was his first career playoff point. Haula, who won 5 of 9 faceoffs, has four points in his past five games.
2. Less than three minutes later, Ryan Suter hit Zach Parise at the blue line for a 3-on-2. A tic-tac-toe later, Jason Pominville fed Mikael Granlund. Granlund skated right and scored a sweet back-hander from the slot just inside the upper part of the right post.
3. Parise scored his first goal of the series to cap a multi-goal night on the power play. It snapped a 24 for 24 Blackhawks PK against the Wild in the past two playoffs. Parise pretty coolly raised his stick to let Suter see he had position for a redirection. Suter flipped the puck in, Parise deflected it off the post and then buried it. Pominville got his second assist of the game, too.
4. The “Future” – or as some Wild fans tweeted me, the “Present,” scored an empty-net goal. Nino Niederreiter, who was awesome again tonight, took Charlie Coyle’s pass, then made a sweet move to get into the offensive zone and then unselfishly passed to Granlund for the 4-0 lead.
5. Suter looked to get hurt late in the second when he was taken down by Marian Hossa. Suter skated slowly to the bench and down the runway not moving his left arm. Maybe it was a stinger because much to the relief of the fans, he came out to start the third. Coach Mike Yeo said it was nothing. Marco Scandella took Suter’s spot briefly and Keith Ballard, who played well in his first action in almost two months, moved up to take Scandella’s spot. Ballard logged 11:26 of ice time.
6. The Wild’s seven goals in this series have come in the third period.
7. From Wild PR, since 2003, the Blackhawks have been held to 22 or fewer shots in a playoff game just 7 times – 3 of those 7 times coming in this series
Hard game to watch for 40 minutes, but like I said, the Wild stayed with it. The Blackhawks did their best to make the neutral zone a cobweb as the two strong defensive teams waited for the other to break.
The Blackhawks did first.
“When you can get a shutout against that team, it’s good,” Parise said. “It felt like a lot of neutral-zone play, a lot of bouncing pucks. It was tough to really sustain a lot of end-zone time.”
“We were playing against a really good team,” Granlund said. “It was a tough-checking game. Neither ream doesn’t get a lot of chances, a lot of room. That’s playoff hockey. You need to be able to play that.”
Check out the gamer for the full story, and of course all the coverage on startribune.com/wild.
The Wild has Wednesday off. Coach Mike Yeo is available, as is Matt Cooke, who will be returning for Game 4. For who? My gut says Matt Moulson, who had an assist tonight, one shot and only play 9 ½ minutes. He is playing in what will be Cooke’s spot on the Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine line, and the Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick line has been good.
I am off Wednesday. I need a day to do errands and decompress and sleep, so Rachel Blount will be covering the Cooke and Yeo press availabilities. Follow Rachel on Twitter at @blountstrib.
Here is some of Mike Yeo’s presser, courtesy of Rachel:
We just stayed strong. That was a challenge, they were playing really well. We were playing really well too, that was as tight a checking game as there's been, that I've been a part of. Neither team was getting a lot of shots, neither team was getting a lot of scoring opportunities. Both teams were playing incredibly disciplined and strong on their checking game. We just stayed strong. It was a challenge. You're down 2-0, you know you've got to win. But to stay strong with our game, to stay focused on the process, and obviously it's been a big part of the series one way or the other, both teams have defended really well. You look to capitalize, you look to attack when you get a chance and that’s what we did on our first goal and likewise on our second.
(regarding the team's response)
I just kind of expect it, that’s the leadership we have. The adversity thorough the course of the game, it might not be visible, but we knew we had to win this game. You can't fall down 3-0 against that team. You're 0-0, the outcome is not as clear as you want it to be at that time, but the leadership of our guys to continue to push forward, to continue to stay strong, for a guy like zach and pommer to make the plays they made, but mikko, as far as I'm concerned, we kind of got him going, in the matchups, he was outstanding too. The big guys definitely came through tonight.
(about the young players)
We talked about this last round. If we had young guys and we're trying to hide them on the 4th line or something, these guys played prominent roles. And we need these guys to be really good, and they're learning on the fly. This whole experience through these entire playoffs, we're growing right now. This game is another opportunity for us to grow and so is the next one. Now we've got a couple days, that's good, that we can sit around tomorrow and enjoy the day off. We know we've got another really big challenge. We're not sitting here patting ourselves on the back. We're still not leading the series, they are, so our goal is to come back and even it up.
(suter) I'm not surprised (he came back in). From what I heard it was really nothing. This guy, he's a pretty tough individual.