Does Blackhawks 2-0 series lead mean it's over for Wild?
It started as a seemingly harmless play along the boards right in front of the Minnesota Wild bench.
Ryan Suter, with the Hawks short-handed, played a game of patty cake with his stick when suddenly Marian Hossa arrived on the scene and completely undressed Minnesota's five-time all-star defenseman.
And in the blink of an eye, a game that resembled a harmless pillow fight blew up in the Wild's face.
After pushing the puck down ice, the 36-year-old Hossa fed it to Jonathan Toews on a 2-man breakaway and the captain's shot bounced up and over goalie Devan Dubnyk and behind the goal line a split second before Suter could sweep it out with 7:32 left in the second period.
Seven minutes later the Hawks went up 2-0 on a Patrick Kane blast, Patrick Sharp made it 3-1 with a third-period goal, Kane added an empty-netter, and the Blackhawks overwhelmed the Wild with a 4-1 victory Sunday night at the United Center in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series.
The Hawks take a 2-0 series lead to Minnesota with Game 3 on Tuesday night.
"Hoss makes a great play and a great finish by Johnny," Kane said. "It kind of wakes up the team, wakes up the crowd and makes the game a little bit more interesting after that."
The bottom line in this game is that the Hawks' stars shined all night long, while Minnesota's turned the puck over and failed to keep Toews, Kane and Co. from once again lighting up the UC scoreboard.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk was supposed to be this unstoppable force, but the Hawks have sent 7 shots past him in 65 attempts. The 6-foot-6 monster has a dwarf-like save percentage of .892 in his team's 2 losses.
Corey Crawford, meanwhile, also shined for the Hawks, stopping 30 of 31 shots.
Kane, a playoff star since he entered the league, continues to be a wrecking ball to almost any team that challenges the Hawks in the postseason. He has 101 points in 101 playoff games, including 10 against the Predators and the Wild in 2015.
His first goal came off a 100-foot pass from Duncan Keith with just 19.9 seconds left in the second period.
"It always seems like he's scoring big goals," Sharp said. "The history of that has been proven. You just try to get him the puck in certain situations. He's a guy that wants his puck on his stick at all times, and you love that as a teammate."
"That just says it all," Crawford said of the point-a-game production that Kane averages in the postseason. "He's great during the regular season and just at another level during the playoffs."
Kane needs just 49 more points to pass Stan Mikita for most points in franchise history in the playoffs.
"It's one of those things where I've been part of a great organization, great teammates, great team overall and have had some enjoyment of playing with some great players," he said. "I give all the credit to them. It's been fun."
This series hasn't been fun in the least for the Wild. Coach Mike Yeo's team lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since acquiring Dubnyk from Arizona, and they are 0-8 all time at the United Center in the playoffs.
Minnesota center Charlie Coyle was most upset with Kane's goal. "That last minute there," he said, "we have to be tight, we have to be strong. It puts a dagger in us. The game's not over, but it definitely dampens you a little bit."
They'll be drowning pretty soon if Minnesota's stars don't step up to match the energy, production and solid all-around play that Joel Quenneville's have shown thus far.
"I think they've been good -- consistently game in, game out," the Hawks' coach said. "The best players are leading the charge, consistently playing the right way, making their linemates better. But that's how you have success as a team, when your leaders and best players lead the charge."
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Three stars of the game3 stars
1. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks: Made some incredible saves in the second period to keep Wild from tying game.
2. Marian Hossa, Blackhawks: Short-handed assist to Jonathan Toews put Hawks on the board and spearheaded the victory.
3. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks: Captain scored on Hossa's pass and had a big game all over the ice.
-- John Dietz