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updated: 5/10/2013 5:44 AM

Blackhawks eliminate Wild with 5-1 win

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  • Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews celebrates a goal by right wing Marian Hossa against Minnesota Wild in game 5 of the NHL Western Conference first-round playoff series at the United Center Thursday.

      Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews celebrates a goal by right wing Marian Hossa against Minnesota Wild in game 5 of the NHL Western Conference first-round playoff series at the United Center Thursday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Consider it sweet vindication for Corey Crawford.

Even though the Blackhawks still have a lot of work to do, Crawford finally won the first playoff series of his career Thursday night at the United Center.

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With Crawford making 22 saves, the Hawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 to take the best-of-seven first-round series 4 games to 1.

Not only was it Crawford's first series win, it was the Hawks' first as a team since they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. They had been eliminated in the first round two years in a row.

"I think the past two years we felt we could have gone further, so this is definitely is a good start for us," Crawford said. "We didn't want to go back to their rink so we left everything on the ice.

"It's a win and we're moving on. It feels real good right now, but we've still got a lot of work ahead of us. For now we're going to enjoy it and rest up."

The Hawks will get either San Jose or Detroit in the second round. It will be the Sharks if Anaheim beats the Red Wings in Game 6 of that series on Friday. The Sharks already have swept the Vancouver Canucks out of the first round.

Crawford set the tone early by robbing Mikko Koivu in tight. That save drew the first chants of "Corey-Corey" for the night. There were several more to come.

"I definitely heard it," Crawford said. "It's nice and a good feeling. They've been hard on me at times this year, obviously, but that's a part of it. They expect us to be at our best, so it's only fair."

Despite winning the series in five games, the Hawks still don't feel they have played their best hockey. They had better crank their game up a notch or two in the next round no matter whom they get in the next round.

"We worked hard all season to get to this point," Jonathan Toews said. "Nothing is for sure, whether you're the first seed or the eighth seed. We worked hard to get out of that first round, but we know we've got to keep getting better."

Toews gushed over Crawford's play.

"What can I say about Crow?" Toews asked. "He was unbelievable. He was our best penalty killer making big stop after big stop. It's great to see the crowd get behind him.

"He's giving energy to the rest of our team and giving energy to the crowd and that's what we need -- a nice, positive chant for Corey Crawford."

It was 1-0 after the first period and 4-1 after the second on 2 goals by Marian Hossa and the first career playoff goals by Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw.

Patrick Sharp got his fifth goal of the series on a power play in the third period.

"It feels pretty good," Sharp said. "It's been awhile since we won a playoff series here. Again, not really the best start. Crow made a bunch of big saves to keep it 0-0 and once we scored that first goal things kind of turned for us."

Hossa, who had a 3-point night, got that first goal, his second goal of the series, at 15:39 of the first period to open the scoring.

He took a pass from Toews in the low left circle and ripped a shot that went in off goalie Josh Harding. It was Toews' first point in the series after being blanked the first four games.

Harding was back in the net for the Wild after injuring his left leg early in Game 4, but he was pulled after Hossa's second goal at 6:26 of the second period made it 3-0.

The Wild was 0-for-2 on the power play and finished the series 0-for-17.

The Hawks' penalty killers have made all the difference in the series, led by Crawford.

Kruger's goal came at 3:19 of the second period with Shaw scoring just 35 seconds after Torrey Mitchell put Minnesota on the board.

"It was unbelievable to do it in front of our fans," Shaw said. "They deserve it. They've waited a long time for this through the lockout and everything."

•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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