By Chris Kuc, Tribune reporter
Brent Seabrook fired the puck around the boards where it struck a stanchion and wobbled into the slot.
Blackhawks teammate Peter Regin, engaged in battle with the Wild’s Ryan Suter, skated over the rubber disc and for a brief moment, everyone at Xcel Energy Center held their breath to see who would reach it first.
Of course, Patrick Kane did.
Kane then did what he does best, scooping up the puck, making a forehand-backhand move and flicking it into the top of the net to give the Hawks a stunning 2-1 overtime victory over the Wild in Game 6 on Tuesday night. The triumph closed out the best-of-seven, second-round playoff series 4-2 as the Hawks now advance to the Western Conference finals.
Kane’s heroics, of course, were nothing new as his goal marked the fourth time in his career the winger ended a postseason game in overtime and the third time he clinched a series in the process.
“That was a lucky bounce, how it came right to me in the slot,” Kane said. “I just tried to drive hard to the net and hope it came to me. I made a fake, tried to put it in the net and probably put it a little higher than I wanted to.
“But I was happy to see it go in.”
Luck tends to follow Kane when it comes to big moments.
“Whatever it is, if the luck finds me or the heavens above give me blessings in overtime, you keep taking it,” Kane said.
Kane and the Hawks wouldn’t have been in a position to win it in the extra session if not for a remarkable goaltending performance from Corey Crawford, who made 34 saves — including five in OT — to lift the defending Stanley Cup champions on a night when the Wild controlled the bulk of the pace.
“That was a pretty exciting feeling when that (Kane goal) went in,” Crawford said. “A little relief, too, to get this thing finished. That was a tough team. I mean, they played really hard in this building. In Chicago too. They kept coming at us. Tough series, really tough series.
“I don’t know, we just have that confidence, though, going into overtime, we felt like we were going to get it done.”
After everything they threw at the Hawks in the first five games, it was clear early the Wild weren’t going to go away quietly — and they didn’t.
After Kris Versteeg quieted a roaring crowd of 19,396 with his first goal since March 25, to put the Hawks in front early, Minnesota gained its footing. Erik Haula scored for the Wild early in the second period but that was it as Crawford repeatedly turned aside excellent scoring chances to out-duel Ilya Brzygalov and hand the Wild their first loss at home during the postseason.
Despite perhaps not playing their best hockey, the Hawks have reached the Western Conference finals for the fourth time in the last six seasons and will face either the Ducks or Kings. Anaheim has a 3-2 series edge with Game 6 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
“You’re always going to have to face some moments when some people on the outside maybe doubt what you’re capable of as a team but in the locker room you never have that doubt and you never let it creep in,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “You keep believing in what you can do and what you do well as a team. It’s meant to be for your team and that’s what we’ve done.”
For the Wild, it was a disappointing ending after playing on a level with the defending Cup champs.
“It’s hockey,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “Nothing you can do about it. We did everything right. (The puck) comes off the glass and gets on the tape and it’s in the net.”