ST. PAUL, Minn. – Center Patrick Sharp, who is the hottest scoring player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tonight scored two goals on consecutive nights to fuel the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-0 shutout victory to take a 3-1 series lead. In 28 regular season games that he has been in the lineup the team has not lost. The only loss was in the last playoff game this past Sunday.
Sharp’s first goal came at the 8:48 mark as the Wild turned over the puck in their own zone. Marian Hossa stripped the puck from the Wild at the top of the right wing circle and dished over a centering pass to Michael Handzus who took a shot towards the net and deflected on in by Sharp who was menacing Josh Harding at the top of the crease.
Harding got a stinger late in the first period as Jonathan Toews crashed in the net with the Wild goaltender doing the splits with the post to the inner thigh. He finished the period but could not come out to begin the second.
Sharp welcomed Darcy Kuemper into the Stanley Cup Playoffs by scoring off the rookie netminder as Sharp stole the puck and skated along the blue line down the near slot and fired a long shot in between the pads a minute into the second frame.
Left wing Bryan Bickell got the insurance goal as he scored his fourth goal of the series at 12:46 in the final frame. Bickell battled for control of the puck and dug it out and got a tough angle shot in top shelf on Keumper.
Keumper who was recalled from the Houston Aeros served as backup to Harding as Niklas Backstrom is still day to day with a lower body injury. With that said, Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo will need to make a decision is Harding cannot play on Thursday in a pivotal Game Five.
With almost a battle at the OK Corral in the last couple of game with both teams shooting out of their minds, tonight’s affair produced only a total of 49 shots. Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford turned away all 25 shots that he faced for his first postseason shutout. Kuemper went 16 of 18 shots in relief of Harding who suffered the loss stopping 5 of 6 shots.
The Blackhawks will now return home for Game Five in this Western Conference Quarter Finals where they can eliminate the Wild with a victory.
Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith couldn’t really sleep the night before. Was he all worried about the Wild offense? No, that is not the case as he and his wife Kelly-Rae welcomed Colton Duncan Keith who was born at 11:15am this morning. Keith then flew into St. Paul just two hours before the game and played just three second under 24 minutes of the game.
Three Stars of the Game
Third Star: Wild Defenseman Ryan Suter with 30 minutes of ice time
Second Star: Blackhawks Left Wing Patrick Sharp with two goals
First Star: Blackhawks Goaltender Corey Crawford with the shutout win
Western Conference Quarter-Finals
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild
Chicago Blackhawks lead the series 3-1
Game 1 : Wild 1 at Blackhawks 2 Overtime
Game 2 : Wild 2 at Blackhawks 5
Game 3 : Blackhawks 2 at Wild 3 Overtime
Game 4 : Blackhawks 3 at Minnesota 0
Game 5 : Wild at Blackhawks Thursday May 9, 8:30 PM CDT
*Game 6 : Blackhawks at Minnesota Saturday May 11, TBD
*Game 7 : Wild at Blackhawks Sunday May 12, TBD
* if necessary