Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - Just when you thought that things couldn't get much worse for the Minnesota Wild in this opening round Stanley Cup Playoffs series, they did.
After seeing the team's number one goalie Niklas Backstrom go down in warmups leading up to the first game of the series with an injured leg, tonight backup goalie Josh Harding had to take a back seat after Chicago forward Jonathan Toews crashed into the net late in the first period.
The first period started well for the Minnesota Wild who registered six shots in the first eight minutes of the opening frame. As it has gone the first three games of this series, it was the Wild registering opportunities while the Blackhawks register goals.
Following a Mikko Koivu turnover on the Wild backcheck, Chicago winger Patrick Sharp corralled a bouncing buck and beat Harding at the 8:48 mark of the first period.
From that point on in the first, the Wild crawled into a hole completely unable to clear the zone and generate any semblance of a forecheck.
Late in the period, it was Jonathan Toews who came crashing into the net on a breakaway taking out Wild goalie Josh Harding who wrapped his left leg around the goal post. Slow to get up following the play, Harding toughed it out for the final minutes of the first period but it was rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper who emerged from the tunnel and between the pipes to start the second period.
With Kuemper making his playoff debut to start the second, Chicago looked ready to jump the unproven rookie. Unfortunately for Minnesota, that's exactly what the Blackhawks did.
After carrying the puck into the zone on the left side of the ice, it was nothing more than an ordinary wrister from Patrick Sharp that squeaked under the blocker of Kuemper and in for the Blackhawk's second goal.
The Blackhawks continued to pepper Kuemper throughout the second and flipped the script on the Wild sending 11 shots on goal but Kuemper calmed held strong to finish the period in a 2-0 deficit.
The third period brought much of the same for both teams. The Wild extended their scoreless power play streak to six and at the 12:46 mark of the third period, Bryan Bickell went top shelf on Kuemper to extend the Blackhawks' lead to 3-0 and send a large contingent of fans streaming towards the exits.
In the end, the Minnesota Wild failed to capitalize in almost all of the areas of the game the carried them to victory in game three. They turned the puck over in their own zone, they didn't finish checks, they weren't strong on the stick and most of all, they didn't score.
Now down 3-1 in the best of seven series, momentum has taken a dramatic turn for the worse as game five is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:30 and the Wild will have their backs firmly placed up against the wall.