(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
By Ryan Donaldson
In a major plot twist,
Cal Clutterbuck scored his first career playoff goal to start off the festivities at the
Koivu was pegged with a questionable hooking call, but Harding and an effective penalty-kill, kept the Blackhawks off the scoreboard during the man-up. Brodziak and Cullen had the best scoring chances following Clutterbuck’s early goal, but Cullen bobbled a beautiful feed from Suter that would have set him up on a breakaway. None the less,
As Coyle nearly scored in the opening seconds of period two, Parise was called for goaltender interference, despite being pushed, setting up a dangerous power play for the Blackhawks. Hossa and the Hawks knew this was their chance to climb back into it. Hossa’s quick shot tied the game 1-1 after the puck scooted underneath the out-stretched goalie pads of Harding. The score would remain tied at 1 heading into third period.
Bouchard had the best scoring chance to open up play in the third after firing a slapshot on net nearly allowed for Brodziak to tap home the go-ahead goal on a rebound. Zucker took a high-stick to the nose creating a 2 minute power play for Minnesota. The Wild peppered Crawford during the man-advantage but after several close calls, came up empty.
The Blackhawks were clearly eager to get the go-ahead goal. Harding was hit with a barrage of shots amidst commotion in front of the net, the puck slid into the net just moments after a whistle blew the play dead and the goal was waived off.
The teams exchanged scoring chances as time wound down in regulation, including a nifty Zucker wrap-around that nearly sealed the win for Minnesota late in the game. The game remained tied after strong performances turned in by both goal-tenders, and game 1 headed to sudden-death overtime.
With the crucial game 1 of the series at stake, each team played with caution to open up sudden-death OT. Marian Hossa, however had a great chance on a wide open net but Harding had the highlight save of the night getting his stick down just in time to make a diving stop keeping the game knotted up. Despite a near heroic performance from Josh Harding and a Jason Zucker crossbar, the Blackhawks offense proved to be too much for the Wild to handle. Smooth and quick passing allowed for Bickell to get loose in front of the Wild net, he stick handled his way past Harding and slid in the game winner as time was running down in the first OT. The goal gave Chicago the 1-0 series lead in the best of seven matchup.
"Phenomenal. Thats a guy that gives you so many reasons to root for him." Said head coach Mike Yeo on Harding's outstanding performance filling in spur-the-moment for the injured Backstrom. He added, "That's the kind of game we have to play in front of Harding, or whoever it is in net. We played a hard fought game but now the focus being better next game."
The Wild will travel back to the Twin Cities for a few home practices before flying back out to the Windy City for Friday night's late contest. Pre-game starts at 8pm and the puck drops from the United Center at 8:30pm on the FAN and KFAN.COM!