CHICAGO – In two games at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild just about shut down the Blackhawks’ most dangerous forwards. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were rendered useless. Brandon Saad was silenced, and Michal Handzus — well, he’s just here to win faceoffs and kill penalties.
And for any other team that might be a victory in itself, if not for one pesky Slovak who doesn’t seem to slow down. Not after 15 years in the league or four trips to the Stanley Cup Final in his past six seasons.
Marian Hossa hasn’t broken stride for anybody — a problem that arose again during Game 5 at the United Center on Sunday night. Hossa set up the game-winning goal in the third period by Jonathan Toews as the Blackhawks won Game 5 2-1.
“Sometimes it just takes a simple shot,” Hossa said. “Jonny found a way to score from the rebound. That’s the type of goals — every night it’s not going to be pretty, and we are glad we won this game.
The series goes back to Minnesota for Game 6 on Tuesday with Chicago ahead 3-2.
“We definitely would like to finish it there. We know how hard it is to play in their building and we know we have to be better than we were in the last three games,” Hossa said.
Chicago overcame a rusty first period to get back into the game and control the final two periods.
“The crowd was frustrated, we were frustrated,” Hossa said. “After the first we just came to the dressing room and [said] we just have to relax, we knew how we need to play. We just needed to take a deep breath, relax and play hard.
“In the second and third we were better, and everybody is happy after the game.”
Hossa now has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 10 playoff games against the Wild.
That type of consistency is why the Wild tried to sign him to a long-term deal in the summer of 2008. Hossa opted to sign a one-year deal with Detroit instead and ultimately signed a 12-year deal with the Blackhawks the following offseason. The Wild has been at his mercy ever since.
“You look at Hoss as he’s evolved here over the course of six years, game in and game out he’ll be a force with or without the puck,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said before Game 5. “The last two, three years have been at the same pace as when he was in his prime. So we’ll say he’s still in his prime.”
Even when Hossa, 35, doesn’t have the puck, one still gets the sense he has some control over it. Specifically on the forecheck, and along the boards, Hossa’s strength and soft hands allow him to corral the puck around defenders and create space for himself.
“For me specifically, I just do my stuff,” Hossa said. “Play a two-way game, and try to create something. Good things happen when I play that way.”
And now to Game 6.
“It’s one of the hardest games to finish a team,” said Hossa.