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updated: 5/10/2014 1:09 AM

Blackhawks making things difficult

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  • Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke (24) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) collide during the third period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, May 9, 2014. The Wild won 4-2.

      Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke (24) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) collide during the third period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, May 9, 2014. The Wild won 4-2.
    Associated Press

 
 

So, the Blackhawks and Wild are going to have a serious Stanley Cup playoff series after all.

The Wild won again at Minnesota on Friday night, this time 4-2, to tie the best-of-seven series at 2 victories apiece.

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How has the Wild stormed back into this thing? By making the Hawks look like anything but defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Hawks might have thought they were going to Minnesota for some fishing on one of the 10,000 lakes.

Hockey couldn't have been the Hawks' intended purpose. Not the way they were outscored 8-2 in the two games at St. Paul.

"We don't want to make any excuses about not winning on the road," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We have to find a way to to do it."

The Hawks still should win this series, right? They still have home-ice advantage, right? They're still the better team with the better regular-season record, right?

But if the Hawks don't start taking the Wild seriously, they're capable of losing back at home or on the road or anywhere in between like Sheboygan or Manitowoc.

Disjointed is the word that comes to mind for this latest Hawks loss. Game 4 on Friday night was disjointed. Uneven, too. Choppy, too. All of the above.

Hawks goalie Corey Crawford gave up a soft goal, made a couple of great saves, then gave up another soft goal, then made some more great saves.

Patrick Sharp scored to end a personal slump and then Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped him on a breakaway.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville started the game with new line combinations and then shook them up and then …

Please, stop the madness!

Some of the Hawks' problems were self-inflicted, but others could be attributed to the Wild.

Minnesota bad-boy Matt Cooke returned from suspension to hit every Hawk in sight early in the game. He played mean but clean.

Not only that but Cooke recorded a take-away and assist on the Wild's first goal to ignite the Minnesota crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.

The Wild dominated the puck against the customarily puck-possessing Blackhawks.

After one period the Wild had an advantage in shots on goal of 7-4. After two periods the advantage increased to 25-13. In the end it was 31-20.

In case you were wondering, that wasn't good for the visitors.

When the Hawks were skating up ice, the puck was sliding down ice. The Wild beat the speedskating Hawks all over the ice.

Things were going so badly for the Hawks by the third period that Toews was spotted frustratingly slamming his stick to the ice.

"They worked for everything they got," Toews conceded. "We have to do the same. We have to do better."

This series wasn't supposed to evolve this way, especially after the Hawks won the first two games in the United Center.

Even after the Wild won Game 3 at home that was supposed to be the obligatory victory the Hawks would yield at Minny.

No, though. The Hawks are the ones struggling to find answers and in need of some home-ice love to regain their bearings.

But while the Wild won't have its fans in Chicago, it will have Cooke and his energy and physical play. Maybe one of the Hawks' answers is Andrew Shaw, who has been sidelined by injury since Game 1.

But there's no telling when Shaw will return to the lineup, and in the meantime his net presence and energy and urgency have been missed.

Another good idea would be for Crawford to win the goalie game within a game against Bryzgalov, who was billed as the Wild's main weakness.

"It's playoff hockey," Toews said. "It's not supposed to be easy."

Ah, yes, but it wasn't supposed to be this difficult either.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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