Updated: 05/14/2014 11:51 AM KSTP.com
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) lands on Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) as Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30), of Russia, deflects a shot during the first period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul.
Photo: Photo: AP/Ann Heisenfelt
The Chicago Blackhawks were chasing for much of the game, and the Minnesota Wild just kept generating chance after chance to score.
Once overtime arrived, though, all Patrick Kane needed was one friendly bounce to finish off another opponent.
Kane scored on a backhand at 9:42 of the extra period to lift the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the Wild in Game 6 to clinch their second-round Western Conference series on Tuesday night, the fourth playoff overtime winner of his career.
"He's a special player, and guys have that instinct, have that knack of finding pucks, wanting to be out there, wanting to score," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Kris Versteeg scored 1:58 into the game and Corey Crawford came up with tough save after tough save among his 34 stops for the Blackhawks, who advanced to the Western Conference finals to meet either Anaheim or Los Angeles. The Ducks lead the other semifinal series 3-2, with the Kings hosting Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Since 2009, the first postseason appearance for Kane and co-star Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are 14-0 in Games 5 and 6 of playoff series that were tied after Game 4. They're also 12-2 in games with a chance to win a series, including 6-1 on the road.
"We probably didn't play our best tonight, but just finding a way to win is something this team has done for many years now," Kane said.
Erik Haula scored his fourth goal of the playoffs and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots for the Wild.
Minnesota pushed a frenetic pace for much of the night but paid for all those missed prime opportunities when a simple dump-in behind the net by Brent Seabrook took a strange bounce off the glass back toward the slot.
The puck slid past Peter Regin as he was tied up with a defenseman.
Kane snagged it, deked once and flipped it into top of the net. He said he wasn't sure right away if the puck was in.
But he soon found out.
"It seems like it was not our luck tonight," said Bryzgalov, who nearly matched Crawford save for save. "We hit some posts in the third period and they got like the first goal after some crazy two bounces."
The Wild kept up the pressure on Crawford that they created in the middle of the game, but whether it was the goalie's pads, blocker or a crossbar in the way, the pucks didn't go in.
"We really believe that we were capable of doing more than just winning this game," a dejected Wild coach Mike Yeo said, adding: "Our guys did everything that we asked and they laid it on the line, and that's what hurts."
The Blackhawks scored first in six of their previous 11 games in these playoffs and won each time, their only victory without taking the first lead coming in Game 5 against the Wild.
Versteeg put them right back in control just 1:58 in on his 28th birthday, when he outmuscled Keith Ballard for possession in the corner and flipped an bad-angle shot that bounced awkwardly among the bodies around the crease, hit the back of Clayton Stoner's leg and skidded past Bryzgalov.
The Wild got their break - or, rather, breakaway - soon after the first intermission when Haula sped to snag a pass by Matt Cooke that banked perfectly off the boards and he snapped the puck on the rush past Crawford's glove.
Each side brought an aggressive game plan, with defensemen pinching down often and all kinds of rushes developing both ways, particularly in that breathless penalty-free second period that had the home team buzzing so much that Quenneville used his timeout.
Crawford made two saves apiece on a pair of breakaways by Justin Fontaine. Cody McCormick tried a spin move to fend off Duncan Keith and nearly got the puck past Crawford, who used his left pad to stop it.
"On the road this was probably one of my bigger games of the playoffs so far," Crawford said. "This team seems to enjoy that position where we have a chance to eliminate and move on to the next series. We had a chance to do that and we stuck with it all game."
NOTES: Kane moved into the NHL lead with 35 postseason goals since 2009. ... The Wild had goalie Darcy Kuemper dressed for action for the first time since he was removed in the third period of Game 6 of the first round series against Colorado because of what the team labeled an upper body injury. ... The Blackhawks fended off two more power plays in the third period and dropped the Wild to 2 for 20 in the series.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
The Wild are trying to prevent a postseason from ending on their ice for the first time in franchise history.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said pregame that he's not a rah-rah speech kind of guy. But he must've said something after the third period. The Blackhawks are at least controlling the puck, something new this game, through the first few minutes.
Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook, with 11:45 to go, delivered a shot on net, but Ilya Bryzgalov gobbled it up.
As the first overtime neared the ten-minute mark, a Chicago puck dumped into the Wild zone took an odd bounce off the back-glass and bounced toward the front of the Wild net. Ryan Suter tied up one Chicago attacker but Patrick Kane streaked in to corrall the loose puck. Kane made a quick deke to the right and flicked a backhander into the corner of the net behind Bryzgalov.
Kane gives the Blackhawks a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6, and a 4-2 series win that concludes the Wild's season.
THIRD PERIOD RECAP:
The Wild are 4-1 this postseason when tied after two periods. The one loss: Game 5 in Chicago. The Wild had two power play chances in the first half of the period and failed on both. Shortly after the second power play expired foward Mikael Granlund had a chance in front, but hit the crossbar.
The Blackhawks didn't register a shot on net through the first 12-plus minutes of the period.
The Wild, like the second period, dictated pace and play the first 15 minutes of the period. Opinion: truly is amazing that this is a 1-1 game. Corey Crawford is looking like JS Giguere of the Ducks in the 2003 Western Conference Finals.
Chicago generated an ok chance with 3:22 to go in the period. Patrick Kane got loose, but Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov cut off the angle. Chicago has just 11 shots over a 37 minute time span.
No goals scored this period. To sudden-death overtime we go.
SECOND PERIOD RECAP:
This was very possibly the Wild's most entertaining period of this postseason. It was up-and-down hockey, magnified the first 10 minutes. 2:29 in, former Gopher Erik Haula displayed his elite speed and got free to beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Haula has at least one point in five of the six games in this series. Look for him to be a top-6 forward in the near future.
The Wild's dominance made Chicago use its timeout midway through the period after an icing. Chicago did have a chance to regain the lead, but forward Patrick Sharp was stopped by Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The Wild had an opportunity to capture the lead, but forward Justin Fontaine was stoned on a breakaway. Forward Dany Heatley fanned on a close-in shot and forward Jason Pominville also swung-and-missed on a tip-in in front 13 minutes into the period. One minute later forward Cody McCormick was stopped in point-blank range.
The Wild outshot Chicago this period 15-7. They are doing a marvelous job of maintaining puck control. As one Blackhawks fan, CBS college hoops guru Jerry Palm, noted on Twitter, "It feels like Minnesota has been on a 30 minute power play." This is the most open ice we have witnessed all series.
Then 16:53 into the period Fontaine was stopped twice in-close. The second save was a sprawling glove save by Crawford. This 17 minute stretch is as well as the Wild have played through 12 1/2 games this postseason. If not for Crawford the Wild would surely have a lead, and maybe by multiple goals.
FIRST PERIOD RECAP:
Chicago scored first, 1:58 into the game, when Kris Versteeg notched his first goal this postseason. It quickly silenced a deafening home crowd, and it came after a turnover by defenseman Keith Ballard. The 1-0 Chicago lead meant the Wild trailed at home for the first time this postseason. Chicago is 6-0 this postseason when scoring first.
Morning skate notes:
The Minnesota Wild got some good news Tuesday morning ahead of Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Wild defenseman Keith Ballard will be in the lineup after missing Game 5, the team said. He suffered an upper-body injury during Game 4, only his second game back from a prolonged groin injury during the regular season.
Ballard was injured in the second period of Game 4 when Chicago's Brandon Bollig hit him from behind against the board. Bollig was given a minor penalty and later suspended by the league for two games. Bollig will serve the second game of that suspension Tuesday night.
The team also announced goalie Darcy Kuemper will serve as the backup to Ilya Bryzgalov.
Defenseman Ryan Suter missed the morning skate because of a dentist appointment, coach Mike Yeo said. It was hard to tell whether he was telling the truth, or if tongue was firmly planted inside his cheek.
Pregame notes from Xcel Energy Center: