The Blackhawks were by no means ruling the rink with the game scoreless after two periods in Game 3 of their second-round series, but they had held the Wild to 10 shots on net and had set themselves up for another situation in which they could put the Wild to rest in the third period. The third period had proved to be the difference for the Blackhawks in the series’ first two games.
But then the Wild did something they hadn’t done all series against the Blackhawks. The Wild took a lead.
After Erik Haula scored at 1:41 of the third period to give the Wild a 1-0 advantage, the Wild clamped down even more on the Blackhawks’ attack and limited their chances on net. The Blackhawks took 16 shots in the third period, but only four got to Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
And while the Blackhawks struggled to find holes, the Wild opened up a few more of their own. The Wild tacked on three more goals by the end of the third period and put themselves back in the series with a 4-0 victory.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville saw the game as an opportunity lost.
“I didn’t mind our first 40 minutes,” Quenneville said. “Scoring first was obviously a big difference in today’s game. They got the crowd electrified. They got another one after that. We had the start we were looking for. There’s not a lot of time. There’s not a lot of space. The more plays you try to make, it ends up in your net. That is kind of resulting in one or two of the goals anyways.”
The Blackhawks knew coming into the series the Wild were going to be on top of them and make quality scoring chances a rarity.
“Defensively, they’re probably as tight as a team you’ll play all year," Quenneville said. "I think it’s like we said at the top of the series, St. Louis, Minnesota is going to be a low-chance game, low-chance series. That’s what it was. After 40 minutes, that was as low as you can get.”
The Blackhawks were able to combat some of that by scoring first and dictating the game’s style before the Wild could in the first two games.
While the Wild didn’t explode for opportunities themselves Tuesday -- they put only 17 shots on Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford -- they kept the Blackhawks from doing what they had in the first two games. The Blackhawks could just never break through against the Wild’s defense.
“I still don’t think either team really took over the game,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “You look at the shots, it stayed under 20 apiece again. I don’t know. We started playing the way we could when we went down two goals to none. Still a little frustrating trying to understand why that is.
“I guess that’s part of their game plan. They want to try and take away our speed, take away our pace of play and keep us under 20 shots. So we’ve got to just find a way around that. We’ve got to play with more energy and we’ll take the next couple days to think about it and do better Friday.”
Toews thought the Blackhawks had to create more second-chance scoring opportunities with either rebounds or tipped shots going forward. Toews had scored himself on a rebound in Game 2.
The Blackhawks will return to Chicago for two days before playing Game 4 back in Minnesota on Friday. Before departing for home, though, the Blackhawks were already putting the loss behind them.
“So what? It’s one game,” Crawford said. “We’ll move on to the next one.”