Souhan: This series, these playoffs woke town from the doldrums

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2014 - 7:04 AM

Screaming wasn’t enough. Waving towels wouldn’t suffice.

This game begged more of those in attendance, so fans at Xcel Energy Center stood during the frenetic second period, stood and screamed and waved and tried not to succumb to emotional exhaustion.

What looked like a standing ovation might have been more like a standing eight-count, because this was a night for smelling salts and oxygen tanks.

There are times when sport is routine, and there are times when it is a waste a time, and then there are times like Tuesday night, when two resolute teams elevate their genre to some sort of breathless art.

When it ended, it ended not because of a mistake but because of the kind of bouncing luck that so often defines epic hockey. A puck caromed crazily off a stanchion behind the Wild goal. Blackhawks magician Patrick Kane picked it up, tucked it behind Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, and suddenly players who had been cross-checking each other were lining up to shake hands.

The final: Blackhawks 2, Wild 1. Blackhawks four games, Wild two.

The Wild has given us thrills during this postseason, and has excelled at home, but rarely in the history of this still-pristine building has the Wild and any opponent staged such a neck-wrenching, end-to-end drama.

The Blackhawks started the game as if they wanted to end it in a knockout. They took a 1-0 goal in the first on Kris Versteeg’s goal, which bounced off Bryzgalov from a sharp angle and somehow found the net. That marked the first time this postseason the Wild had trailed at home.

The Wild responded with impassioned hockey, dominating the puck and creating prime chances that only heightened the tension when missed, like a false-alarm scene in a horror movie.

Wild forward Matt Cooke, who has been highly effective as a checker, again terrorized Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy, forcing him into at least two turnovers. But Cooke earned the Wild’s first penalty when he boarded Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya in the first.

Cooke is a strange combination of soft hands and a cold heart. In the second period, he displayed the former, banking a deft pass past a Blackhawks defender and into the open ice. Of course, that pass would work only if intended for one of the league’s fastest players.

Erik Haula qualifies as just that, and he swooped in on the loose puck, veered left and fired a shot over the glove of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford to make it 1-1. Haula, a quiet kid off the ice, took out his mouthpiece, skated to the corner and began a conversation with the fans.

In the third period, the game regressed from a track meet to a wrestling back. Oxygen debt will do that.

The Blackhawks, seemingly exhausted, couldn’t manage a shot until less than eight minutes remained in regulation. At that point, the Wild, despite a half-dozen close calls, had taken only two actual shots on net.

Wild fans chanted taunts of “Craw-ford’’ most of the night. Crawford must have misunderstood. He played as if inspired by the attention, holding off everything from point-blank shots to blatant net-crashing.

The Wild’s 13 playoff games constituted the best extended drama the Twin Cities has seen in a decade, and Game 6 might have been the best sporting event we’ve seen in five years.

On Oct. 5, 2009, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre faced his old team on “Monday Night Football,” and the Vikings beat the Packers 30-23 in a game as dramatic as the circumstances. The next day, the Twins won Game 163, 6-5, in 12 inning to advance to the playoffs.

Tuesday night, the Wild awakened the echoes of Twin Cities sports dramas. Then a puck bounced the wrong way to the wrong player, the crowd fell silent, and the Wild’s month of drama ended with empty stares and consolation handshakes.

“It’s hard to win,’’ Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “Sometimes, it’s a bounce.’’

Poetry, amid the poetic injustice.

 

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

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 Bottom 8th Inning
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Seattle 8
Colorado 1 Top 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 14
Cleveland 3 Top 9th Inning
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 7 Top 8th Inning
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 Top 9th Inning
LA Angels 3
Kansas City 8 Bottom 7th Inning
Arizona 5
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Charlotte
New York 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Utah
Denver 9:00 PM
Portland
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Carolina
Florida 6:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Toronto
Los Angeles 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Columbus 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 8:00 PM
Colorado
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 27 1st Half 2:35
Wisconsin 26
Canisius 6:30 PM
NJIT
Notre Dame 7:49 PM
Kentucky
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
D.C.
Sporting Kansas City 6:00 PM
New York City
Red Bull New York 6:30 PM
Columbus
Portland 7:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Colorado 7:30 PM
Houston
Seattle 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 6:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
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: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close