ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild never hid their intentions for Sunday.
The Wild were going to come out hitting and try to make Game 3 of their Western Conference quarterfinals series as uncomfortable for the Chicago Blackhawks as they could.
While the Blackhawks withstood the Wild’s aggressiveness for the first 10 minutes and even scored the game’s first goal, there was no doubt as the game progressed who was playing as if they needed Sunday’s game to stay alive. The Wild understood a third consecutive loss to the Blackhawks would have likely been their season’s demise, and they answered that challenge by taking it to the Blackhawks in nearly every way Sunday and pulling out a 3-2 overtime victory.
“They definitely outplayed us,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They played like they had to win and we didn’t.”
Up and down the score sheet, the Wild topped the Blackhawks. The Wild won 40 faceoffs to the Blackhawks’ 32. The Wild had 34 hits to the Blackhawks’ 13. The Wild had 37 shots to the Blackhawks’ 27. The Wild had nine takeaways to the Blackhawks’ two. The Wild had 12 blocked shots to the Blackhawks’ 11.
The Blackhawks had as good a chance as the Wild to win the game when it went into overtime, but Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said ultimately the better team won Sunday.
“No matter how you analyze it, I think at the end of the day we didn’t deserve to win and they did,” Keith said.
The Wild especially stymied the Blackhawks by not allowing them to utilize their speed and develop offensive chances off rushes. It was something the Blackhawks were able to do in the first two games and helped them build a 2-0 series lead. On Sunday, those chances were rare.
Keith said that has to change again in future games.
“They were quicker than us tonight,” Keith said. “I think our strength is using our speed and our skill. We didn’t use it enough tonight -- whether that’s jumping in playing or going or moving, skating to the puck, skating before we get the puck. It’s all that.”
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews credited the Wild for their play Sunday, but he also made it clear that the Blackhawks expect more out of themselves.
“Of course, they got some good players and they’re a hardworking team, but when we’re focused on what we have to do and how we can bring our best game and our best effort, bring that intensity you need in the playoffs, we’re a very difficult team to handle, too,” Toews said. “We didn’t make them worry about us and what we’re doing quite enough tonight.”
“For us, we should expected [this to be a difficult series] from the start. Just because we won two games at home doesn’t mean they’re going to throw the series. It’s a seven-game series for a reason.”