(SportsNetwork.com) - Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks will take aim at a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals when they host the Minnesota Wild in Sunday's clash at United Center.
The defending Stanley Cup champions recorded a 5-2 win in Game 1 on Friday to grab an early lead in the best-of-seven series. Despite the final margin, the game was deadlocked early in the third period before Kane and his teammates took control of the contest for good.
Chicago carried a 2-0 lead into the third, but Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak scored under five minutes apart early in the frame to even the score for Minnesota. That's when Kane kicked his quest for a second straight Conn Smythe Trophy into high gear.
Kane scored the first two of Chicago's three unanswered goals in the third period to help the Blackhawks win going away. The 25-year-old American now has five goals in this postseason, tying him for the most in the NHL during the 2014 playoffs. Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik also has five goals as does Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche, who were eliminated in the first round by Minnesota.
Kane's first goal on Friday was of the highlight variety. The Chicago winger carried the disc down the left side and into the Minnesota zone before cutting through the high slot, where he faked a drop pass. Given room to work, Kane held off his defender and worked into the low right circle before lifting a filthy backhand over the short-side shoulder of Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
"It was one of those plays where I was about to drop it to (Patrick Sharp) but I saw both defensemen kind of go to him," Kane said of his tie-breaking goal. "I just tried to get in on the backhand and made a good shot."
Kane doubled Chicago's lead at 16:47 when Sharp's shot from the right point deflected off Ben Smith's stick in the circle and ricocheted to the low left side, where Kane was waiting to send the puck home for a 4-2 lead.
Bryan Bickell added an empty-netter with 2:41 remaining to arrive at the final margin. Bickell had opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first.
Corey Crawford registered 30 saves for the Blackhawks and Marian Hossa also scored.
Bryzgalov started in net for the Wild in place of an injured Darcy Kuemper, who was forced to exit Minnesota's Game 7 victory over Colorado after sustaining an undisclosed injury late in the contest. Bryzgalov stopped the only shot he faced in relief against the Avalanche, but turned aside just 17- of-21 shots in Friday's setback.
With Kuemper expected to miss another tilt, the situation in net will likely remain unchanged on Sunday. John Curry, a 30-year-old journeyman, suited up as Bryzgalov's backup on Friday and could do so again in Game 2. Curry has seen action in six career NHL games and none in the playoffs.
The Wild, holders of the first of the West's two wild card spots, are trying to avoid being eliminated by Chicago for the second time in as many years. Minnesota, which is in the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2003, lost to the Blackhawks in five games during the opening round last spring.
Although the Wild appeared to be the better team at times in Game 1, Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo knows his team needs to play a more complete game to pull off an upset of the reigning champs.
"There wasn't enough urgency in the details and the little things that add up to make the difference at this time of year," Yeo said. "We slipped a little bit from last game. We didn't bring the same level and so we'll rectify that."
Minnesota was playing Game 1 in Chicago on the heels of winning a road Game 7 in Colorado on Wednesday. On Friday, tHe Wild fell to 1-7 all-time in the first contest of a series and haven't won a Game 1 since their first-ever playoff game, a 4-2 win against Colorado on April 10, 2003.
On the injury front for Chicago, forward Andrew Shaw left the game in the first period after absorbing a hit from Stoner and did not return. He is day- to-day with a lower-body injury and is questionable for Sunday.
Game 3 of this series is scheduled for Tuesday in Minnesota, with the Wild also set to host the fourth meeting on Friday.