CHICAGO – Bryan Bickell had an open look on a break in the third period, and shot the puck off the crossbar. He then tried the other side of the ice, and that worked out quite well for him and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bickell had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Brandon Saad scored his first two goals of the postseason, and Chicago earned its sixth consecutive win despite stretches of lackluster play in the second and third periods. Corey Crawford made 18 saves in another solid performance.
There were bits of that third where it wasn’t looking good, but we just stuck with it, Bickell said. Leave it to our D and Crawford to keep the puck out of the net. We need to be smarter defensively in positioning, but we stuck with it and got over the hump.
Cody McCormick scored his second career playoff goal, but Minnesota missed another chance to steal home-ice advantage from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
We weren’t that far off, Wild coach Mike Yeo said. Even though, again, I know we can play better. We weren’t that far off. That game was hanging for us.
The series opener was tied at 2 in the third period before Patrick Kane scored two of Chicago’s final three goals in a 5-2 victory on Friday night. Game 3 is Tuesday night in Minnesota.
Clayton Stoner and Erik Haula made nice passes to set up McCormick’s first playoff goal in three years 2 minutes into the third, trimming Chicago’s lead to 2-1. Crawford then batted a potential tying shot from Charlie Coyle over the crossbar.
I almost missed it, where it might have gone in, Crawford said. Just enough to land on top.
The Blackhawks eventually regained their composure and turned up the pressure again. Coming down the right side, Bickell shot the puck off the crossbar on a break with 4:39 to go.
Given a second chance, the physical forward delivered. Bickell skated up the left side, got a pass from Marian Hossa and buried his shot into the upper right corner to extend Chicago’s lead to 3-1 at 17:15.
PENGUINS 3, RANGERS 0: In Pittsburgh, Kris Letang broke a scoreless tie in the second period, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for his seventh playoff shutout as Pittsburgh tied the second-round series at one game apiece.
Letang’s 15th career postseason goal matched Larry Murphy’s record for Penguins defensemen. Jussi Jokinen scored during a third-period power play, and Evgeni Malkin added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who managed a home split in the first two games with the suddenly weary Rangers.
Game 3 is tonight in New York.
Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves for New York, but the Rangers mustered little offense while playing their fourth game in six days. New York’s limp power play went 0 for 4.