CHICAGO - If there was one line Chicago needed to stop in the opening-round game of the NHL playoffs on Tuesday night, it was Minnesota’s line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle.
And it’s no wonder, the three Wild forwards combined for 37 goals during the regular season, with Parise leading the way with 18 goals and Koivu scoring 11.
And Koivu and Parise had combined for 46 assists and 75 points.
The Blackhawks smothered the Wild trio through the first two periods, holding them to three shots, including a pair of meaningless shots at the end of the second.
For the game, Koivu, Parise and Coyle had five of the Wild’s 27 shots on goal in the 2-1 loss in overtime.
The Blackhawks top line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa teamed up to hold the Wild’s best line in check for two-thirds of the game. They also provided some offensive punch for the home team.
“Our line was playing a lot [whatever] line that was out there against them just had to be aware that they were out there and be tough on those guys,” Toews said.
“We did that, but they’re going to create chances no matter what, so we just have to contain them as much as we can.
“We can expect them to be even better in the next game.”
Toews and Hossa accounted for one-fourth of the Blackhawks’ shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. And after a ragged first period by Chicago, Hossa tied the score 1-1 on a power-play goal just 2:06 into the second on a shot from the left circle.
“A lot of times our top line was out there as well and there’s mutual respect,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville said. “Both groups are responsible defensively, and that played a part in it.”
In the third period, Koivu, Parise and Coyle were matched up against other stingy Chicago lines, including the fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.
But still nothing came of it in the way of scoring, as the Wild teammates added just one more shot on goal for a total of four of the team’s total of 20 through regulation.
“I thought we played pretty good defensively, not many great chances, so our defense did a fine job,” Hossa said.
Koivu had a good opportunity from in front of the net in the third period on a power-play with his second shot on goal of the game, but Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford smothered it.
In overtime, the top lines from each team matched up several times. Hossa’s backhand shot three minutes in was stopped by the stick of Wild goalie Josh Harding. And later, after the Toews’ line kept the puck in Minnesota’s zone, Parise had a scoring chance from the slot, only to be stopped by Crawford.
“I thought that they battled hard,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Koivu, Parise and Coyle.
“We’ll continue to look at it and try to find a way to get a little bit more.”