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Hawks stymied again on road; series tied

5/10/2014
"We're going to have to figure out what we did wrong," said Corey Crawford, right. AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's crowd is undeniably loud. The fans scream and yell along with blaring music for their own team and can keep a “Co-rey” Crawford chant going for minutes.

But the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t lose back-to-back road games and see their 2-0 series lead erased because of Minnesota crowd. The crowd certainly motivated the Wild, but the Blackhawks have overcome hostile crowds before. The past two seasons they’ve won on the road in Minnesota, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston and St. Louis in the playoffs to capture series.

The Blackhawks were beaten 4-0 in Game 3 on Tuesday in Minnesota then 4-2 in Minnesota in Friday's Game 4 because the Wild outplayed them.

“No matter where we are we don’t want to make any excuses,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after Minnesota evened the series at 2-2. “We’re on the road. We have to find a way to do it.”

The Blackhawks scored two more goals Friday than they did in Game 3, but Game 4 was arguably their worst of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks and Wild shared possession of the puck for most of Game 3. That wasn’t the case for Game 4, as the Wild had 35 total shots to the Blackhawks’ 21 with the game tied or within a goal to give Chicago a 37.5 Corsi close percentage -- a playoff low for the Blackhawks in that figure, which accounts for shot differential. The Wild also had 31 shots on net Friday to the Blackhawks’ 20 -- with Minnesota scoring an 18-9 advantage in the second period alone.

Shots on net have been a challenge for Chicago throughout the playoffs. Even when the Blackhawks were winning in the first two games of this series, they weren’t lighting up the Wild’s net. They’re averaging 20.8 shots on net in the series. They had 22 shots on net in Game 1, 22 in Game 2, 19 in Game 3 and 20 in Game 4.

“They do a good job of picking up their man in the neutral zone,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp explained after Game 4. “It seems like when we get a chance at some open ice, they’re playing well away from the puck and they’re taking time and space. But it’s not so much what they’re doing; I think we can look at ourselves in our locker room and be a lot better.”

An inability to get the puck out of their own zone cost the Blackhawks on the Wild’s first two goals. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill also can’t be expected to remain perfect when Chicago provides the Wild five power plays. The Wild scored on their fifth power play of the night.

The Blackhawks continued to show respect for the Wild after the loss and credited them for their play, but players said it was ultimately on themselves to rise above and exceed what Minnesota been doing.

“I think it’s reflecting of our intensity,” Toews said. “They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We have to do the same. I don’t really know how to explain it, we have to be better. It’s frustrating to not get a win the last two games on the road. Could have put ourselves in a great spot had we played the way we need to play to try and get a win these last two games. But we didn’t. This series is long from over. That’s the good news. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better than we have been.”

Blackhawks goaltender Crawford also felt it came down to him and his teammates finding another gear.

“We just got to come harder,” Crawford said. “We got to dig down and come harder next game.

“We’re going to have to figure out what we did wrong. You always want to look at it and try to fix things you need to fix for next game.”

The Blackhawks do have the luxury of still having home-ice advantage over the Wild. The Blackhawks can take care of the Wild by staying undefeated at the United Center -- site of Game 5 on Sunday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Thursday.

“This is a tough building,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Xcel Energy Center. “We should be excited to go home. Taking care of that game, it’s going to be a big game, tough game. Let’s be excited about it.”

Excitement and a loud United Center will undoubtedly be in place come Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks will step up their game again is the unknown.

“[We need] a real short memory and remind ourselves of how good we can be in our building,” Toews said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy. There’s going to be some moments where your stomach drops and you’re not feeling like everything is going your way. That’s the way it goes.

“You have to find a way to battle through that and create something out of nothing, especially in this building when it’s loud. They’re playing with energy. Everywhere you look they seem to be there. They’re checking you. You have to find a way through that. When you work hard enough, people are going to get lucky.”