CHICAGO — This time, it was hard work for the Chicago Blackhawks. No pretty goals on this night, just get to the front of the net and fight for a chance.
Pushed, poked and prodded by the Minnesota Wild, Jonathan Toews and Co. found a way.
Toews had a tough rebound goal early in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Wild 2-1 on Sunday to take a 3-2 series lead in the NHL Western Conference semifinals.
“The whole game, the whole series has been very tight,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Still not a lot of room and space, but that’s what we’ve got to fight through. I thought we showed more determination in the puck area tonight.”
Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as Chicago bounced back from consecutive losses in Minnesota that handed the momentum to the Wild heading into Game 5.
But the Blackhawks were back at the United Center, where they improved to 6-0 in this postseason and 17-2 over the past two playoffs.
“As the game went on, we found ways to play better as a five-man unit,” Toews said. “Once one line would generate a good shift and get us some energy, the next line would follow it right up. I think that’s when we’re an effective team, when we have four lines going like that and contributing.”
Erik Haula scored in the first period for the Wild, and Ilya Bryzgalov had 26 stops. Minnesota became the first team to score first in the second round of the NHL playoffs and lose, dropping that record to 19-1, according to STATS.
“We tried to hang on to something we wanted to have happen and we fell victim to it,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Minnesota, where the Wild are undefeated in this postseason.