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updated: 5/3/2014 12:01 AM

Sluggish Blackhawks find late answers

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  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comPatrick Kane celebrates his game leading third period goal during a 5-2 win over the Wild. Charlie Coyle skates away from the play.

      Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comPatrick Kane celebrates his game leading third period goal during a 5-2 win over the Wild. Charlie Coyle skates away from the play.

 
 

The Blackhawks said all the right things about the Minnesota Wild.

They said Minnesota was a better club than the one the Hawks handled easily a year ago.

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They said Minnesota was faster and more talented than the 2013 version.

They said they would not take the Wild lightly.

But you know these Hawks too well.

They are rarely ready to go until forced. They don't turn it on until required to flip the switch. They don't take it to the next level until they're asked to by their opponent.

So it was not news that the Hawks came out sluggish and sloppy against the Wild. It'll be news when the Hawks are ready for an inferior opponent to begin a series and take that team apart from the start.

Minnesota was the better team for most of Game 1, but Corey Crawford was terrific again in net and the Hawks defeated the Wild 5-2 Friday night at the United Center.

The Hawks scored a power-play goal in each of the first two periods, and after Minnesota tied it at 2-2 in the third, Patrick Kane scored as only Patrick Kane can -- a play-of-the-year-type backhand flip over Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and under the crossbar for the game-winner.

Kane added a two-foot putt off a brilliant Ben Smith tip in the closing minutes, Bryan Bickell finished it off with an empty-netter and the final score -- after 3 Hawks goals in nine minutes -- was no indication of which team had the edge Friday night.

Yes, the Hawks won the game because they found the ignition late, but without Crawford's brilliance the result would have gone Minnesota's way.

Rest assured, the tape session will not be pretty as the Hawks were anything but sharp.

Twice on a first-period power play, the Hawks made bad changes and gave up scoring chances, and twice in the first two periods, captain Jonathan Toews could be seen yelling, "Let's wake the (bleep) up," at his sleepy bench.

They never really did, but they managed to escape with a Game 1 victory knowing they're going to have to be much better in order to put away a Wild team that is fearless and relentless.

"I thought we prepared well," said Patrick Sharp. "But that's a good team over there. We have to put 60 minutes together."

Arriving at the UC on Friday night for Game 1 of the quarters was a Minnesota team that had to win in overtime of Game 7 in Denver on Wednesday night, overcoming deficits four times, and figured to have little in the tank less than 45 hours later.

Presented with a similar scenario a year ago after the Red Wings went seven with Anaheim and had to make three trips to the West Coast, Detroit came to Chicago on two days' rest -- Minnesota got only one -- and the Hawks roasted them, 4-1.

Wings coach Mike Babcock all but predicted that Game 1 would be tough and that he thought his team would bounce back given the chance to get their legs under them again.

The Hawks -- who played a lackadaisical first series against Minnesota -- were unprepared for a faster Detroit team that showed up in Game 2 and outscored the Hawks 9-2 in winning three straight games.

The Hawks know that considering Minnesota's questions in goal, if they play the way they did in the final three games against the Blues, this series could be over in four or five, but the Hawks -- as we've seen for two years -- need a serious push before they start firing on all cylinders.

If they play the way they did in the first three against St. Louis, the series could go the limit because Minnesota is much improved over a year ago, and that's how the Hawks came out in Game 1.

Missing was the urgency. Gone was the pace. There was no sign of desperation.

But it's Game 1. That's just the Hawks, right?

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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