The Chicago Blackhawks retained control of their first-round playoff series against the Wild even with a Game 3 loss on Sunday. But if they weren’t pleased about that effort, they figured there was one answer:
Get angry about it.
“You watch every other series and you see how tough it is on every single play, every single shift, little puck battles everywhere,” captain Jonathan Toews said earlier Tuesday. “Nothing is taken for granted. We have to have that same work ethic and same in a way hatred for that team that they had for us last game.”
The Wild certainly didn’t like the Hawks on Tuesday, nor the result. Patrick Sharp scored two goals and Bryan Bickell added one for a 3-0 win in Game 4, a 3-1 series lead and the chance to close out the series in Game 5 at the United Center on Thursday night.
And this with the opposition’s goaltending situation a mess again. An apparent leg injury suffered by Wild starter Josh Harding late in the first period precipitated backup Darcy Kuemper taking the net after the first intermission.
Meanwhile, regular starter Niklas Backstrom was sidelined since the warmups for Game 1 with a lower-body injury but returned as the backup for the third period of Game 4.
Kuemper’s introduction was a rude one: Sharp collected a puck at the blue line and fired a wrist shot in from the top of the faceoff circle, and the first shot Kuemper saw skidded right past his stick for the 2-0 lead just 68 seconds into the second period.
Bickell, meanwhile, continued his streak of postseason production with a bit of a lucky bounce. He grabbed a puck near the boards and fired the puck toward the net from a wide angle that appeared to deflect off the Wild’s Matt Cullen and wound up being roofed by Kuemper for a 3-0 lead at the 12:46 mark.
After surviving an early flurry of angry play from the hosts, the Hawks silenced everyone in the building by striking first. A Marian Hossa steal led to Sharp redirecting a Michal Handzus shot in for a 1-0 lead.
Hossa lost the puck to the Wild’s Mikko Koivu in the offensive zone but picked off Koivu’s ensuing pass, finding Handzus in the slot. A wrister on net deflected off Sharp setting a screen in front for the one-goal edge at the 8:48 mark.
The Wild’s goaltending again became a question late in the first period after Toews crashed into Josh Harding on a chance near the net.
While Toews didn’t appear to cause too much damage, athletic trainers came out to check on Harding’s left leg, which he was flexing and favoring before electing to remain in the game for the last four and a half minutes of the period.
The Hawks expected to answer the Wild’s physicality with more of their own in Game 4, if not quite getting away from the puck possession and speed game for which they are known.
Defenseman Duncan Keith arrived at the Xcel Energy Center at 6:30 p.m., according to the Hawks, and hopped into the lineup after returning to Chicago for the birth of his son on Tuesday morning.
Winger Daniel Carcillo, a scratch for the first three games of the series, officially returned to the lineup in order to add agitation and “unpredictability,” as coach Joel Quenneville put it Tuesday morning.
Winger Jason Pominville rejoined the Wild lineup, meanwhile, after missing the final two games of the regular season and the first three playoff games while recovering from a concussion.