Maybe Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya should try his hand at billiards when his hockey career is over.
It was Oduya's perfectly placed bank shot off the glass late in overtime that set up Bryan Bickell's winning goal in the Hawks' 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at the United Center in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Contact information ( * required )
3 stars of the gameTim Sassone picks his three stars of Game 1:
1. Bryan Bickell, Hawks
The big winger scored the winning goal at 16:35 of overtime on a 2-on-1 with Viktor Stalberg.
2. Corey Crawford, Hawks
Goalie shook off a bad goal early and made 26 saves, including several key stops in overtime.
3. Josh Harding, Wild
Pressed into a starting role when Niklas Backstrom got hurt in the warmup, he made 35 saves and nearly stole a victory.
Viktor Stalberg chased down Oduya's pass that sailed over the head of a Minnesota defenseman as if planned that way and started a 2-on-1 with Bickell, who finished the play by tucking a backhander through goalie Josh Harding's five hole at 16:35.
"We talked about it a couple times that if we get time we can just take off," Stalberg said. "I saw them kind of seeing me take off and I didn't really see the puck.
"I was just skating, trying to find it somewhere and it kind of bounced down in front of me. I pulled up a found Bicks there. It was a great finish by him."
It also was a great finish by Corey Crawford, who rebounded from a tough early goal by Cal Clutterbuck to get the win.
Crawford was beaten cleanly to the short side by Clutterbuck's snapper from inside the left circle at 4:49 of the opening period on the first shot he faced.
"I lost it halfway and was never able to really see it come in," Crawford said. "It was tough to get over, but I was just trying to find a way to get myself back in the game. I was able to make a couple saves after that to really get into it and played solid after that."
Crawford made a point-blank stop on Zach Parise in overtime when it looked like the Wild might steal the first game.
"He was phenomenal," Stalberg said of Crawford. "I think we played good in front of him and kept their shooters to the outside, but there were a couple times when they got their Grade-A chances and he came up big.
"The biggest one was probably the one on Parise in overtime all alone in the slot. That's game change.
"You've got to get a couple saves like that from your goaltender if you want to make it far in these playoffs. It was good to see Corey start this series on the right foot and hopefully he can keep gaining confidence."
Bickell was mobbed by his teammates after the winning goal.
"Stalberg has that speed and made it a 2-on-1," Bickell said. "The defense was late and Stalberg made a great play to get it to me."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville praised all three players on the winning goal.
"That was a heck of a play," Quenneville said. "Johnny put it up there for a race, and Viktor used his great speed and saw the presence of Bick coming late with his speed. I think all three guys made really nice plays on it."
You would have thought the Hawks caught a break before the game when Minnesota starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was hurt in the warmup and couldn't play.
That pushed backup Harding into a starting role, something he hadn't done since Jan. 30 against the Hawks when he failed to make it out of the first period after allowing 2 goals on 4 shots.
Harding was much better this time, stopping 27 of 28 shots by the Hawks through regulation and giving the Wild a chance to steal a victory. The Hawks had 6 shots in the first period but never seriously tested Harding.
The Hawks picked up their play in the second period and tied it on a power play at 2:06 on Marian Hossa's goal.
Patrick Kane set up Hossa's 37th career playoff goal by carrying the puck into the Minnesota zone and spotting his teammate flying down the left side.
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.