The Chicago Blackhawks overcame a slow start to win their playoff opener in overtime, and the top-seeded club will try to extend their series' lead when they host the Minnesota Wild in Friday's Game 2 battle at United Center.
The Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 to the eighth-seeded Wild less then five minutes into Tuesday's opener of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals. However, Chicago tied the score at one in the second period and eventually won the contest, 2-1, on Bryan Bickell's tally with 3:25 remaining in overtime.
It was a difficult loss to swallow for the Wild, who turned in a valiant effort against the Presidents' Trophy winners in Game 1 despite the fact that No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom was scratched from the contest due to an injury suffered in the pre-game warmups.
Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September, filled in for the injured Backstrom and turned aside 35-of-37 shots in the tough-luck loss.
Harding couldn't stop Bickell late in the overtime period, as the Chicago forward played the hero with 3:25 remaining in the extra session.
Viktor Stalberg broke into the Minnesota zone on the right wing, and was joined by Bickell in a 2-on-1. The former dished across to the latter, who took one stride with the puck and scored the winner on the backhand through the pads of Harding.
"I thought we were going to win it in regulation there but we carried it to OT," Bickell said. "It's special to have this city and these fans and even the teammates to get that OT to put us on top. Most importantly, to get that first win."
Bickell became the first Blackhawks player to record a playoff overtime goal against a Minnesota hockey franchise since Darryl Sutter, who is currently the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, scored at 15:41 of the extra session in a 6-5 Chicago victory in Game 6 of the Norris Division Finals on April 30, 1985. Of course, that game was against the North Stars franchise, who have long since relocated to Dallas.
Marian Hossa picked up the other score and Corey Crawford stopped 26 shots for the Blackhawks, who played the eighth OT game in their last nine postseason tilts dating back to a first-round loss to Vancouver two years ago.
The Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010, will try tonight to grab a 2-0 lead before the series shifts to St. Paul for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.
Chicago was 18-3-3 home record during the regular season, while Minnesota was just 12-11-1 on the road.
Cal Clutterbuck notched the lone score for the Wild.
"We played a pretty good game but obviously came up on the short end," Harding said. "We just capitalize on a couple more chances I think that we're going to be set."
Harding expects to get the start again tonight and Darcy Kuemper, who was recalled from Minnesota's AHL affiliate in Houston on Wednesday, will serve as the backup.
Wild head coach said Backstrom and defenseman Clayton Stoner, who was injured in Game 1, are considered day-to-day. Forward Jason Pominville sat out the last two games of the regular season with an upper body injury and is expected to sit out a fourth straight contest after missing practice again on Thursday.
For Chicago, forward Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery will miss Game 2. That means Henrik Karlsson will once against suit up as the backup to Crawford.
Although the Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars faced off six times in the playoffs over a 10-year stretch from 1982-91, this is the first postseason encounter between Chicago and the Wild.
The Blackhawks won two of three meetings against Minnesota during the season series and Chicago also gained a point in the only loss, a 3-2 shootout setback in St. Paul on Jan. 30. Chicago recorded a 5-3 home win against the Wild on March 5 and Emery backstopped the Blackhawks to a 1-0 road victory in Minnesota on April 9.