- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Chicago Blackhawks held off a late surge Thursday and completed the sweep of the Minnesota Wild with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference second-round Stanley Cup playoffs at Xcel Energy Center.
How it happened: Chicago's dominance continues. This is the third consecutive postseason the Blackhawks have eliminated the Wild. This time it came down to Minnesota's ineffectiveness at scoring. The Wild tallied just seven goals the entire series, and when they created quality chances, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was outstanding. He finished Game 4 with 34 saves. The Wild came out strong with their physical game, but the Blackhawks again struck first, taking a 1-0 lead at 10 minutes, 23 seconds of the opening period. Brent Seabrook's shot from the left faceoff circle was slightly redirected by Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella and ricochetted past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk into the top right corner on the short side. Chicago gained a two-goal lead when Andrew Shaw scored a gritty power-play goal at 3:28 of the second period, digging the puck out of a scramble and slipping it past Dubnyk. The arena got very quiet until Erik Haula scored at 6:41 of the second to cut Minnesota's deficit to 2-1. Crawford made the initial save on a shot from the point, but Haula pumped in the rebound. Patrick Kane scored his seventh goal of the postseason -- and fifth of the series -- to give Chicago a 3-1 lead at 13:20 of the third period. Chicago added an empty-net, shorthanded goal while the Wild were on the power play and had pulled Dubnyk for a two-man advantage, Marian Hossa directing it in from from his own end. Minnesota, however, quickly followed with a power-play goal to cut its deficit to 4-2 -- and the Wild weren't done. With its net empty, Minnesota scored with 1:27 remaining in regulation to get within one goal, but Chicago was able to hang on for the win. The Blackhawks did everything they needed to in front of Crawford by blocking shots, getting sticks in passing lanes -- showing why they are a true perennial Stanley Cup contender. Chicago won the puck battles along the boards and it proved that playoff experience plays a major role at this time of the season.
What it means: With the series victory, the Blackhawks advance to Western Conference finals for a third consecutive season. Overall, it's Chicago's fifth trip to the conference finals in the past seven seasons. If the Blackhawks can continue to play as they did against the Wild, there's no reason not to think they won't advance to the finals and have a chance to win their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons.
Save of the game: With the Blackhawks holding a 2-0 lead early in the second period, the Wild's Thomas Vanek created a breakaway, but he couldn't convert on his deke attempt as Crawford stuck out his right pad and made the save. That stop proved crucial, but Minnesota scored on the ensuing faceoff.
Injured: Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival suffered a nasty left-leg injury at 6:37 of the second period and needed help off the ice. He did not return. He was skating backward when he attempted to pivot, but his left skate got caught as his body twisted to the ice. He was in obvious pain and was tended to by a team trainer and doctor. Rozsival was carried off the ice by a couple of teammates and could not put any weight on his left leg. His possible absence for the remainder of the postseason will effect the team's defensive game. Veteran blueliner Kimmo Timonen could see more ice time.
The Chicago Blackhawks held off a late flurry by the Minnesota Wild to sweep into the Western Conference finals for a third year in a row.