Blackhawks 5, Wild 1

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals and an assist and Patrick Sharp scored his fifth goal of the playoffs as the Chicago Blackhawks won 5-1 on Thursday night, eliminating the Minnesota Wild from the NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series in five games.
The Blackhawks, who had the best record in the NHL during the regular season, likely will face San Jose or rival Detroit (if the Red Wings can bounce back from a 3-2 series deficit to Anaheim) in the conference semifinals, which start next week (dates TBD).
Minnesota was completely outmatched from the outset. And while the Wild tried valiantly to keep themselves in the game, the Blackhawks were just too powerful and strong to let this one slip through their hands and send the series back to Minnesota for what would have been Game 6 on Saturday.
Instead, the Hawks join the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks, who wrapped up their opening playoff rounds early and can now enjoy extra rest before starting the second round next week.
Hossa's two goals staked the Blackhawks to a 3-0 lead, sandwiched around goals by teammates Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw.
Sharp wrapped up the Blackhawks' scoring at 6:04 of the third period, literally muscling a slap shot away from team captain Jonathan Toews to score .
Hossa opened the scoring at 15:39 of the first period with a 25-foot wrist shot through the legs of Wild goalie Josh Harding. Hossa's second goal of the series was set up by a perfect pass for an assist from Patrick Kane.
The Blackhawks made it 2-0 at 3:19 of the second period when Marcus Kruger took advantage of Harding's inexperience, coming around the back of the net to sink a wraparound goal, Kruger's first goal (or assist) in the playoffs.
Hossa added his second goal of the game at 6:26 on a backhander past Harding to make it 3-0. It seemed very unlikely that the Wild would be able to come back from such a deficit at that point.
The Wild pulled Harding after that goal and replaced him with AHL stalwart Darcy Kuemper, who was forced into action in Game 4 after Harding was hurt following a collision with Chicago's Jonathan Toews.
But give credit to the Wild, they didn't give up. Center Torrey Mitchell put his team on the board at 10:11 of the second period, cutting the Hawks' margin to 3-1.
While Wild fans were happy, Mitchell's goal served to tick off the Blackhawks, who came back 45 seconds later with a goal by Andrew Shaw, who sank a rebound off the boards past Kuemper to make it 4-1.
The Wild tried to show some offensive spark, but Chicago goalie Corey Crawford shined once again. About eight minutes into the game, Crawford made a spectacular save on a Wild power-play shot that had goal written all over it. After that, it seemed like much of the wind in the Wild's sails was gone.
He did the same thing midway through the second period on a hard shot that he covered up like a vacuum.
In an irony of sorts, the Blackhawks' top goal scorers in the regular season, Toews and Kane, still have yet to find the net in the opening playoff round.
But don't think the pair have been idle on the ice. Including Thursday's opening goal, Kane has a series-leading six assists. Toews, meanwhile, had his first two assists of the series.
Sharp came into the game tied for the league scoring lead with four goals.
The Blackhawks came into the game with a 19-19-9 all-time record against the Wild, including the opening playoff round.
NOTES: Attendance was 21,597. ... Goalie Ray Emery continues to be a scratch for the Blackhawks. However, coach Joel Quenneville said Emery is getting healthier from the undisclosed lower-body injury. ... Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom remained out of the lineup with a lower-back injury. ... Chicago came into the game with a 12-13 all-time series record in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. ... Minnesota came into Thursday's game with a 7-3 record in playoff elimination games, including rallying from 3-1 deficits in both of its prior first-round playoff series. ... The Wild have just four players remaining from the team that reached the playoffs the last time in 2008.wer play. ... Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs took part in the "Shoot the Puck" contest after the second period. He made his first shot but missed his other three attempts.

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