CHICAGO – The high of its first-round victory over the Colorado Avalanche has officially worn off for the Wild.
Two days after winning an emotional and draining series, the Wild finds itself chasing another.
The Wild had the better of the chances and even executed a comeback from a two-goal deficit in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night. But that rally was short-lived when star forward Patrick Kane answered with a pretty goal after an even prettier play to lift Chicago to a 5-2 victory at the United Center.
“We’re not happy with our game tonight,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I felt we didn’t have everybody at the level we needed to be at.”
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, the Wild rallied on goals by Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak 4 minutes, 37 seconds apart to silence the Madhouse on Madison.
That silence lasted less than 90 seconds.
The ultra-talented Kane gave Chicago its lead right back on a magnificent goal. After dangling through the neutral zone and tiptoeing the blue line, Kane crossed to his right on his backhand, weaved by defenseman Jonas Brodin and beat an awkward-looking Ilya Bryzgalov with a tight shot just under the crossbar.
“I saw both defensemen kind of go to [Patrick Sharp], so I just tried to get in on the backhand and made a good shot,” Kane said nonchalantly.
From the Wild’s perspective, “Not many guys can pull that off,” Jason Pominville said.
Kane scored again with 3:13 left before Wild killer Bryan Bickell put a stamp on the game with his second goal into an empty net.
Kane’s first goal — the response to Brodziak’s — highlighted a miserable night for Brodin. The second-year defenseman took six minutes worth of high-sticking penalties. Bickell and Marian Hossa scored power-play goals off them.
“I need to keep the stick on the ice there,” Brodin said.
Asked about Brodin’s play, Yeo said: “This is not about one. We had a handful of guys that were below average at best. Whatever the reason, whether it’s the quick turnaround, whether it’s not being able to get adjusted and reset and refocused, we’ll have to rectify that.”
The Wild’s comeback was surprising only because the Wild showed zero finish in the first two periods.
In the second period, the Wild outshot the Blackhawks 17-3, missed the net an additional 11 times (18 for the night) and hit one of its three pipes on the night. Despite being pasted in its end for long stretches, Chicago extended its 1-0 lead to 2-0 by the third with Corey Crawford making 25 of his 30 saves through 40 minutes.
“We did a good job coming back, tying the game, but we’ve got to be able to lock it down better and not give up a chance like [Kane’s],” Brodziak said.
The Wild struck when Stoner, who had a terrific night and knocked Andrew Shaw out of the game with one of his many hard checks, squirted a shot through Crawford. Defenseman Johnny Oduya, battling with Pominville, swept the puck from in front of the goal line, but it hit his skate and rolled over.
Later, Dany Heatley’s forecheck led to Erik Haula setting up Brodziak’s third goal of the postseason.
“It was a very winnable game for us,” Yeo said. “But it didn’t have the feel of a game that we were going to win, but to get yourself in that opportunity … you’ve got to buckle down. In those key moments, we’ve been stronger than that lately.”
The Wild, coming straight off the battlefield from two days prior against the Avalanche, was hoping to catch the Blackhawks, who had five days rest, off-guard with a fast pace in the first period.
That fast hockey came to a halt when Brodin took a double-minor on Hossa. The Wild lost the special teams battle, allowing two power-play goals on four chances and going 0-for-3 on its power play.
And then Kane, like he does to so many, put the dagger in.
“The thing I like about Kaner the best is the big stages, he always seems to put one in,” Sharp said.