Wild coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday’s 4-0 victory over Chicago was the tightest-checking game he ever had been part of. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford chose another turn of phrase to describe his team’s shutout loss in Game 3.
“They tend to play that game once in a while, where they like to shut things down and put you to sleep,’’ Crawford said of the Wild. “There wasn’t much going, on either side.’’
It might not have been the most exciting style of playoff hockey, what with all the neutral-zone trapping and the scant scoring opportunities. Though the Wild made that work to its advantage, Yeo cautioned Wednesday that Game 4 might not play out the same way. The Wild held Chicago to 19 shots on goal — even fewer than the 22 it allowed in Games 1 and 2 — and pleased its coach by maintaining its focus throughout the game.
Yeo’s team got a day off Wednesday to rest up for Friday’s Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center. While Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews believes the Wild’s aim is to hold his team to 20 shots or fewer, Yeo said there is no magic number. And as much as he appreciated his team’s defensive effort, he wants to see better execution on offense as well.
“Our goal is to play a certain way,’’ Yeo said. “We want to be aggressive in how we forecheck and take away their time and space. We want to play with good structure and make sure we’re playing as a five-man unit.
“What I want to see is for us to check at the same level but pick up our execution. There were plays there that we didn’t make. I thought we played a good game, but I could still see there’s another level for us to get to.’’
There had been speculation that Wild defenseman Ryan Suter injured his left shoulder or arm in the second period Tuesday night. After a collision with Chicago winger Marian Hossa, Suter fell on the arm and held it gingerly while heading up the runway to the locker room. He returned for the third period and showed no signs of injury.
Tuesday night, Yeo insisted the incident was “really nothing.’’ He added Wednesday that while some players came to Xcel on the day off to receive medical treatment, Suter was not among them, which he called a “good sign.’’
The Wild’s first goal Tuesday was set up in magnificent style by Justin Fontaine, who got the first playoff point of his career. As Erik Haula rushed to the net, Fontaine carried the puck to the top of the right circle, then sent a perfectly-timed saucer pass through the Chicago defense — directly to Haula, who swatted it in off a bounce.
Fontaine sat out the first two games of the first round, then was scratched for Game 7 against Colorado and Game 1 against the Blackhawks. During the regular season, the rookie recorded a goal and three assists in five games against Chicago. That led Yeo to insert Fontaine back into the lineup Tuesday, and he was delighted to see him reprise that form.
“He’s sneaky fast, and he’s sneaky strong,’’ Yeo said. “But he’s also a very composed, very smart player. Against a team like that, you need somebody who has the ability to hang onto the puck for an extra second, recognize that he has a little more time and space than some might think, and then find a way to spring somebody open.’’
• The Wild (4-0), the Blackhawks (5-0) and Montreal (3-0) are the last playoff teams with perfect records at home.
• Wild forward Zach Parise, who had a goal and an assist in Game 3, is second in the NHL with 13 points in the playoffs. He trails leader Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles by one point.