The Blackhawks quest for the Stanley Cup began Monday with a 2-1 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. The game winner came off Bryan Bickell’s stick in the extra period.
Even before Jim Cornelison belted out the National Anthem, a mini drama played out at the opening playoff game. Minnesota starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, was injured during warm-ups and had to be helped off the ice.
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo called it a "lower body" injury. The Wild had to rely on Josh Harding between the pipes. The 28-year-old goalie played in only five games this season. His last start was in January. (The underlying story this season about Harding is his health. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November. Harding would not comment on his situation, but after the game several Blackhawk players mentioned their admiration for him. During the game, actor Michael J. Fox tweeted, "NHL playoffs! Yes!!! Josh Harding...Great story"
Harding and Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford both had good games with great defense in front of them. Minnesota was the first to score when Cal Clutterbuck got a shot past Crawford in the first period.
The Hawks didn’t have the playoff intensity needed in the first period and the crowd was passive until the start of the second.
Early in the second period, Minnesota’s Zach Parise was penalized for crashing into the Hawks’ goalie. Patrick Kane’s pass to Marian Hossa took advantage of the power play and Hossa tied the game 1-1. Keith also earned an assist.
That goal and the subsequent penalty kill brought the fans back into the game. The Blackhawks’ fan base wants this club to provide action — and wins. Nothing but hoisting the Stanley Cup is on their minds.
The game remained tied into the third period. With ten minutes left in regulation there was a scrum at the Wild’s net. It appeared that Jonathan Toews had scored, but referees blew the whistle. After the game, the Hawks captain said he thought the whistle came rather quickly.
Regulation ended with a 1-1 tie. Since playoff hockey doesn’t have a shoot-out, it is regular periods until someone scores. The Hawks have played overtime in eight of their last nine playoff games.
Last night with just over three minutes left in the first overtime, Johnny Oduya knocked the puck into the boards to a streaking Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg gave it up to Bickell for the score and win.
Coach Joel Quenneville gave his team the day off from practice Tuesday. They will play game two at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland both have lower body injuries and are likely to stay off the ice Friday.