Souhan: Game 4 victory shows Wild can play with and beat the best

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2014 - 11:45 AM

Whatever happens the rest of this series, the Wild has arrived at an unexpected place. The local hockey franchise with the weird name and the ugly sweaters is standing toe-to-toe with the champs.

The Wild’s ability to whip the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday in Game 3 wasn’t all that surprising. The Blackhawks have hardly been flawless on the road in the playoffs the past few years, and the Wild has proved this season that Xcel Energy Center can provide a tangible home-ice advantage. The Wild was desperate to stay alive, and the Blackhawks had to feel secure with a 2-1 series lead over an apparently exhausted team.

Friday would, theoretically, provide a sterner test. The Blackhawks would want to win Game 4 and position themselves to wrap up the series at home on Sunday. After two days of rest, the Wild figured to see the champs’ best.

The Blackhawks provided the expected level of effort, and that did not matter. The Wild outplayed them by a wide margin, winning 4-2 and outshooting Chicago 31-20.

The Wild won Game 3 with a third-period burst. The Wild won Game 4 by dominating throughout.

The Wild has accomplished in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs what it accomplished in Round 1: faced a team demonstrably better in the standings and statistically, and won two home games to turn the series into a free-for-all.

There is no better testament to the team’s improved roster depth and the coaching of Mike Yeo than the Wild looking at home in a close series with a model franchise.

For the second straight series, the Wild has dominated the puck in its home games, using its depth at forward to forecheck and pressure a talented opponent into mistakes. Since the third period of Game 3, the Wild has made the Blackhawks look sloppy and frazzled.

Who could have imagined this, back when the Wild was mired in one of its can’t-score, can’t-find-a-goalie slumps: the home crowd taunting the Blackhawks’ Cup-winning goalie for being unable to stop the likes of Nino Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon.

And who could have imagined this, back when Wild forward Matt Cooke took out the knee of Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie: Cooke being the Wild’s best player in the first period after returning from a well-deserved seven-game suspension.

If there are lessons to be learned, the Wild evidently learned the most important: Shoot the puck. And if there is a second rule of playoff hockey, it is: Shoot it again.

Justin Fontaine scored the first goal, thanks to a pass and then a screen by Cooke, by clanking a short-side shot off Crawford. Bad goal.

Patrick Sharp beat Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov between the skates. Bad goal.

Jason Pominville gave the Wild the lead again by banking a shot from behind the net off Crawford’s right skate. It was 2-1, Wild. Bad goal.

The Blackhawks tied it on Michal Handzus’s tip-in of a Brent Seabrook shot. It was 2-2. That falls into the category, in hockey parlance, of “greasy goal.’’

The Wild regained the lead late in the second period when Niederreiter unleashed his no-longer-secret rocket shot past Crawford, for his latest, biggest goal of his career.

The first three goals of the game should not have found the net but did. It was Bryzgalov, the journeyman, who settled down and made the key saves.

Last year, the Wild needed its best players to carry it in a series against the Blackhawks. When Zach Parise and Koivu couldn’t score, Chicago coasted to a five-game decision.

This year, the Wild’s increased depth and speed at forward is pressuring Chicago into uncharacteristic mistakes and producing important goals. No matter what happens the rest of the way, that’s a sign that all of those trades and free-agent signings were more than wild-eyed desperation.

That’s a sign that the Wild could be playing these kinds of games, in these kinds of series, for years to come.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is

@SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Wild players: 'We need to be better' going back to Chicago

    Saturday May 10, 2014

    Wild players hope to steal a game from the Blackhawks as they return to Chicago for game 5.

  • Wild dominates Blackhawks on both ends to even series

    Saturday May 10, 2014

    The Wild, 5-0 at home in the playoffs with five goals allowed, found an extra gear and tied the series.

  • Sharp ends slump quickly

    Saturday May 10, 2014

    The Chicago winger got his second goal of the playoffs on Friday in Game 4.

  • RandBall: Wild's third line shines in Game 4

    Saturday May 10, 2014

    Good times

  • Justin Fontaine scored the team’s first goal in the first period.

  • Friday night lights: Wild left wing Matt Cooke, who returned to the lineup after a seven-game suspension, assisted on the Wild’s first goal by Justin Fontaine. The Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp scored late in the first period to tie it 1-1 , as the Wild sought to even the series at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Baltimore 7
Milwaukee 0 Top 7th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Washington 3 Bottom 7th Inning
Miami 2
NY Mets 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Atlanta 0
Chicago WSox 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Cleveland 4 Bottom 4th Inning
Minnesota 2
Seattle 1 Top 8th Inning
Houston 10
Cincinnati 4 Bottom 7th Inning
St. Louis 7
San Francisco 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Texas 0 Bottom 1st Inning
LA Angels 1
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Ball State 0 Delayed 9:30
Toledo 6
Appalachian St 7 3rd Qtr 1:34
Southern Miss 14
Miss State 31 3rd Qtr 8:57
(8) LSU 10
Northern Ill 7 4th Qtr
Arkansas 35
Middle Tennessee 10 3rd Qtr 2:25
Memphis 22
Utah State 14 3rd Qtr 3:43
Arkansas State 7
Miami-Ohio 21 3rd Qtr 9:10
Cincinnati 24
Idaho 17 3rd Qtr 2:34
Ohio U 20
(4) Oklahoma 24 3rd Qtr
West Virginia 24
(14) So Carolina 17 3rd Qtr 11:31
Vanderbilt 14
Ga Southern 14 3rd Qtr 11:07
South Alabama 6
Miami-Florida 14 3rd Qtr
(24) Nebraska 17
UNLV 7 2nd Qtr 2:23
Houston 13
New Mexico 21 2nd Qtr 1:43
New Mexico St 14
(22) Clemson 3 2nd Qtr 9:05
(1) Florida State 3
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 2nd Half 5:00
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 2nd Half 2:00
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 1 2nd Half
Chicago 2
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 15 14:51
Hamilton 10
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close