ST. PAUL, Minn. — From an optimist’s point of view, the Blackhawks have to feel as if they took the Minnesota Wild’s best punch and still got the game to overtime.
But it was the Wild pulling out a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center on Jason Zucker’s goal at 2:15 of the extra period to make it a 2-1 series heading to Game 4 on Tuesday.
Knowing it had to be more physical if there was going to be any chance of winning the series, the Wild delivered in Game 3, outhitting the Hawks 34-13.
“It’s part of the game and something we can do, too,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s not the only part of the game that we didn’t take control of tonight.
“Maybe they outhit us on paper, but there are a lot of other things we didn’t do right that we have to get going if we want to win a game like this.”
The Wild had a rabid crowd of 19,238 behind them — and they took advantage of it.
“It was obviously a difference for this team in their own building,” Toews said. “They fed off the energy from their crowd and we didn’t really respond. We let them do their thing through the second period and midway through the third, too.
“It wasn’t until late in the game that we started really playing well and getting back to pursuing pucks and playing offense. The intensity really wasn’t there.”
Duncan Keith’s goal with 2:46 to play forced the second overtime of the series. Keith blistered a shot past goalie Josh Harding from inside the left circle off a feed from Patrick Kane.
But the overtime didn’t even last three minutes as Zucker beat Corey Crawford to the short side from the left.
“The guy got a quick shot off and I didn’t pick it up right away,” Crawford said. “It was just one of those ones that you think you have everything covered. It just got by me.”
Now it’s up to the Hawks to respond in Game 4 — and Wild coach Mike Yeo expects they will.
“We’re going to have to very quickly push this one aside,” Yeo said. “This was a huge, huge win for us, but that said we’re still trailing in the series. I expect to see a better opponent, a very desperate opponent in the next game.
“The big thing is we took what we learned from Game 2 and we were able to bring it tonight as far as what playoff hockey is all about.”
Keith, who was one of the targets by the Wild’s forwards every time he went back for a puck, felt Minnesota deserved to win.
“I think at the end of the day they deserved to win the game,” Keith said. “They were a little quicker than us tonight. Our strength is using our speed and our skill and we need to use our speed. We didn’t use it enough tonight, whether that’s jumping into the play or going or moving, skating with the puck, skating without the puck — it’s all of that.
“I think in all areas of the game we know we can be better. They’ve got some physical players and the crowd was really into the game, too. They’ve got that rave music going all game long so it gets the place rocking.”
The Wild had taken a 2-1 lead on a goal by Zach Parise from Charlie Coyle at 3:09 of the third period. Coyle beat Michal Rozsival behind the net for the puck, which he fed to Parise in front for the backhander over Crawford’s glove.
It was 1-1 heading to the third period thanks to Crawford and the Hawks’ penalty killers, who were 3-for-3 in kills.
The Hawks opened the scoring at 13:26 of the first period when Johnny Oduya took a cross-ice pass from Kane and rifled a shot past Harding from inside the left circle.
The lead lasted until 1:30 remained in the first period when Pierre-Marc Bouchard put a backhander up and over Crawford on a rebound.
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