ST. PAUL, Minn. – The State of Hockey erupted into a state of frenzy.
Jason Zucker ripped a shot from a sharp angle past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford in overtime to give the Wild a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The abrupt ending not long after the Hawks had rallied late in regulation to tie it gave the Wild life as they cut the Hawks’ edge in the best-of-seven series to 2-1 with Game 4 on Tuesday night in St. Paul.
It also proved the Wild aren’t just happy to be appearing in the playoffs for the first time in five years but are going to give the Hawks a battle.
“Just because we won two games at home doesn’t mean that they’re going to throw the series – it’s seven games for a reason,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We didn’t dictate the game for 60 minutes, they did. We have to come back and try to do that.”
In addition to Zucker’s score 2 minutes, 15 seconds into overtime, the Wild received goals from Zach Parise and Pierre-Marc Bouchard to back the goaltending of Josh Harding.
Defensemen Johnny Oduya and Duncan Keith scored for the Hawks, with the latter tally knotting the game 2-2 with 2:46 remaining in the third to set up overtime, but Crawford suffered the loss when he couldn’t stop Zucker’s shot from near the goal line.
“[Zucker] got a quick shot off and I didn’t pick it up right away,” Crawford said. “It was just one of those ones that you think you have everything covered. It just got by me.”
It spoiled a brilliant effort from Crawford, who bailed out his teammates’ often lax defensive effort with 34 saves.
“[Crawford] was amazing,” Toews said. “There’s no chance we would have stuck around in that game without his effort. He was as good as he’s been all year. A lot of us in this room have to look at that and understand that we can all take it to the next level just the way he did. We have to be better in front of him.”
The Hawks will get that chance in Game 4 as they will face a Wild team now confident and holding the momentum. It was the Wild’s first postseason victory since April 11, 2008.
“The first two, we were feeling it out – there’s no reason for that,” said Matt Cullen, who assisted on Zucker’s winning score. “[Sunday], we jumped in and got involved and had a good one.”