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Zucker's OT goal gets Wild back in series

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Minnesota Wild fans envisioned new faces leading them in to the playoffs, they likely were thinking of high-priced free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

And while they both played a role in the franchise's first playoff win in a half-decade, it was the truly new faces -- rookies Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle -- who made the biggest differences.

Zucker scored 2:15 into overtime Sunday, lifting the Wild to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series.

Zucker's shot from the goal line to the left of the Chicago net found a tiny gap behind goalie Corey Crawford. Minnesota dominated for long stretches but needed overtime for its first playoff win since 2008.

Chicago leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday, again at the Xcel Energy Center.

The game-winner seemed like a just reward for Zucker, who had a shot clank the crossbar in overtime during the series opener, a 2-1 Blackhawks win in Chicago.

"You never deserve anything. You've got to work for everything," Zucker said when asked if he deserved to get his first career playoff goal after coming so close two games ago. "I just tried keeping the puck on net and tried keeping at it, and this one happened to go in for me."

The Wild broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period when Parise's rising backhand shot, after a pretty setup pass from Coyle, sailed into the upper right corner of the net, eluding Crawford's glove. It was the first goal of the playoffs for Parise, who played a key role in the New Jersey Devils' march to the Stanley Cup finals last season before signing with his hometown team as an unrestricted free agent in July.

Parise had seven shots on goal -- most of them low -- in the Wild's 5-2 loss in Chicago on Friday, when he was unable to get one past Crawford.

"Charlie did a good job of getting in there on the forecheck, and I didn't know that he knew I was there," Parise said. "He made a really nice pass in front of the net, and I just wanted to get it upstairs. I've done enough trying to get it through on the ice, so I was going to try to go upstairs."

Trailing 2-1, the Blackhawks controlled the puck for much of the final five minutes in the third and finally tied the game with 2:46 remaining. A Duncan Keith slap shot from 40 feet out deflected off a Wild defender and past goalie Josh Harding, who finished with 25 saves.

Minnesota was much more physical in Game 3, finishing its checks after getting dominated for much of the first two games.

"Every game's different. Every shift's different. Momentum is important come playoff time," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "When you lose the momentum, you need to try and get it back as soon as you can. It's tough you got the crowd against you, and in a hostile environment, you need to try to stem it as quickly as you can."

Chicago dominated long stretches of the first period and took the early 1-0 lead on Johnny Oduya's first goal of the playoffs. With Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews occupying the defense on both sides of the net, Patrick Kane was able to zip a pass to Oduya, who shot from high in the left circle, through a crowd and past Harding at 13:26 of the first period.

Minnesota finally gave the eager and noisy crowd a reason to roar at 18:30 of the first period. Cal Clutterbuck got a shot on Crawford, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard was able to backhand the rebound high into the upper right corner of the net. It was also the first goal of the playoffs for Bouchard, who is the only member of the Wild who played 10 years ago, the last time Minnesota won a playoff series.

"Certainly this is something we can build off of," Wild coach Mike Yeo said, impressed with the way his team bounced back from a 5-2 loss in Game 2. "I think we did a good job after Game 2 of taking what we needed from that game and finding a way to raise our level and be a better team."

Both goalies were making their third start of the playoffs, which was not a surprise for Chicago, which had Crawford start regularly during the regular season. Harding's presence in net was unexpected, after he started just three games and was on injured reserve for 33 games, dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis that was diagnosed during the NHL lockout.

Niklas Backstrom, who started 41 of 48 regular-season games for the Wild, was hurt in warmups prior to the first playoff game and has not played since.

Crawford finished with 34 saves for the Blackhawks, who won the first two games of the series in Chicago.

NOTES: Sunday's game was the first time the Wild have hosted a game in May in nearly a decade. On May 12, 2003, the Ducks beat Minnesota 2-0 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, a series that Anaheim swept 4-0. ... Center Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery both made the trip to Minnesota, but neither one was in uniform for the Blackhawks on Sunday. Bolland is recovering from a groin injury, and Emery has a lower-body ailment. Neither has suited up in the playoffs. ... Minnesota's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, played its last game ever on Saturday, a 7-0 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Aeros are moving to Des Moines in the offseason and will be renamed the Iowa Wild. The parent club called up forwards Jake Dowell, Stephane Veilleux and Mikael Granlund from the Aeros after the Saturday game. Veilleux played Sunday, while Granlund and Dowell were healthy scratches.
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