CHICAGO – If three times is going to be a charm, the Wild has some serious work to do to make Wild-Blackhawks Part III a series.
The Wild might be a more experienced team than the one that faced the Blackhawks the past two seasons, but the Blackhawks still have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
They are Grade-A finishers, and they reminded the Wild again Sunday night that it doesn’t take much for them to turn ghastly mistakes into goals.
The Wild turned the puck over before each of their goals during a 4-1 Chicago victory at United Center, and that carelessness is why the Wild faces yet another 0-2 series deficit — the third in three years — to the Blackhawks.
“They have some good players and you make mistakes, and most of the time it ends up in the back of the net,” said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, a minus-3 — second-worst to Thomas Vanek’s minus-4. “They have that killer instinct. Their top players know how to score.”
The Wild is 0-8 in Chicago in the playoffs the past three years to a Blackhawks team that is 10-3 against the Wild in the playoffs since 2013. If the Wild can draw upon anything positive, it’s the fact the Wild won Games 3 and 4 at home last year to draw even in the conference semifinals against Chicago.
Game 3 is in St. Paul on Tuesday.
“I’m sure [the Blackhawks] feel really good and I’m sure they feel they’re going to win the series,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “But I still feel we’re going to win the series. I think our team does, too. Our confidence is not shaken. We just have to learn from this stuff.”
The Blackhawks didn’t get a lot of offensive-zone time. But with the puck, the Wild was uncharacteristically sloppy from the opening five minutes when it coughed up pucks left and right.
“We didn’t make the mistakes,” Yeo said. “I don’t know what team played that game, but it wasn’t us tonight. … With the puck, that’s not us. … The good news is this will be the last time we say this in the series.”
Yeo felt the Wild focused too much on getting the victory rather than the process needed to get it. “It was not a personnel thing, it was a between-the-ears thing,” he said.
In a scoreless game midway through the second period, Toews scored a shorthanded goal after Jason Pominville’s shot wide of the net left the zone. Suter casually played the puck and while he looked for Pominville, Marian Hossa surprised Suter and stripped him for a 2-on-0.
Devan Dubnyk, who had not lost consecutive games in regulation with the Wild before Sunday, made the first save, but the rebound hopped into the air and perfectly deflected in off the knob of his stick.
“It was frustrating to watch the replay,” Dubnyk said.
The Wild had a few chances to tie — a Kyle Brodziak breakaway and a Zach Parise point-blank try that Corey Crawford robbed.
With the Wild 25 seconds from escaping the period only down 1-0, Vanek — who made a costly mental mistake not playing a hand pass late in the second period in Game 1 — did the same thing again. Instead of getting the puck deep, Vanek misconnected a pass with Charlie Coyle. Nino Niederreiter was offside, so with the Wild retreating and Kane having sneaked behind Suter, Duncan Keith headmanned Kane a pass for a 2-0 lead with 19.9 seconds left.
“Those are backbreakers,” Parise said. “Those hurt us the last two games. Things like that, they just can’t happen. We can’t continue to do that to ourselves.”
Matt Dumba scored a power-play goal 1:20 into the third, but six minutes later, Jordan Leopold’s off-the-mark pass to Dumba was picked off by Teuvo Teravainen. He banked a pass to Sharp, who whistled a bullet by Dubnyk as the Wild was trying to recover from a line change for a 3-1 lead. Kane later scored into an empty net for his 101st career playoff point in 101 games.
“It’s inexcusable,” Coyle said of the mistakes. “You can’t afford to make those, especially against this team. They’ll bury it every time.”
Added Leopold, “They have prolific scorers and if you give them an inch, they make you pay.”
The Wild will use Monday to collect itself for Tuesday.
“It’s easy right now to look at all the negatives and point fingers,” Parise said. “We’re not going to do that. We’re going to stick together and win Game 3.”