Published January 13, 2015
The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks will try to put the finishing touches on a first-round win, as they host the Minnesota Wild in Thursday's Game 5 battle at United Center.
The Blackhawks won the first two games of this best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series before losing an overtime decision in Game 3 at Minnesota. However, the Presidents' Trophy winners rebounded with a 3-0 victory in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead and set up Thursday's potential series- clinching contest.
Patrick Sharp scored twice and Corey Crawford made 25 saves to help the Blackhawks record Tuesday's victory at Xcel Energy Center.
Crawford had three shutouts in the regular season for Chicago, which hasn't made it past the first round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. It was the second career playoff shutout for Crawford.
"Our (penalty kill) definitely won us the game tonight," Crawford said. "We blocked a lot of shots and cleared pucks when we needed to. It was definitely a big effort and a good job by all of our guys on the kill."
Bryan Bickell also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, who were 0-for-2 on the power play but also killed off all six of Minnesota's opportunities on the man advantage.
"It probably wasn't the greatest of nights. But I'll say this: If you know them the way that I do, you'd be really excited to watch them play the next game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
The eighth-seeded Wild are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and have a steep hill to climb if they're going to win their first playoff series 2003.
Minnesota may also have to try and mount a comeback with its third-string goaltender in net, as rookie Darcy Kuemper replaced an injured Josh Harding during the Game 4 setback. Harding was forced into a starting role in this series after No. 1 backstop Niklas Backstrom was injured in warmups prior to Game 1.
Harding stopped five of six shots on Tuesday before leaving at the end of the first period with a lower-body injury. Kuemper turned aside 16-of-18 shots in relief.
Backstrom could be well enough to get the start on Thursday. He wore pads as an emergency goaltender in Game 4 and moved to the bench in the third in case Kuemper suffered an injury as well. However, Yeo isn't saying much about tonight's goaltending plans.
"We like to keep the other team guessing," Yeo said, half-jokingly. "So we're not only going to not tell them who our starting goalie is, we won't tell them who our backup goalie is. Really leave them in the dark."
The Wild did get forward Jason Pominville back on the ice in Game 4 after sitting out the previous five games dating back to the regular season. Pominville registered three shots on net in over 12 minutes of action in his return to the ice.
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 its only loss, a 3-2 shootout setback in St. Paul on Jan. 30.
Chicago was 18-3-3 home record during the regular season, while Minnesota was just 12-11-1 on the road.
If necessary, Game 6 of this series is scheduled for Saturday in Minnesota.