ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota in the second period off the back of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford’s skate and the Wild beat the Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night to even the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
Matt Cooke returned from his seven-game kneeing suspension to give the Wild a jolt, assisting on Justin Fontaine’s opening goal. Nino Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon also scored.
Crawford made 27 saves, but he gave up four goals for the second straight game.
Patrick Sharp snapped out of his slump by scoring for the Blackhawks and Michal Handzus had a goal, but the defending Stanley Cup champions again found themselves unable to establish a consistent attack against the Wild’s stifling defense.
The teams will return to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday night and be back in Minnesota for Game 6 on Tuesday night.
The Blackhawks, blanked 4-0 in Game 3, were shut out twice in the postseason last year and responded with four and six goals, respectively, in their ensuing games. Coach Joel Quenneville shuffled up the lines this week, moving Ben Smith to the first group with captain Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell and bringing defenseman Nick Leddy back to the lineup in a search for more speed and flow.
The Wild wouldn’t let that happen.
Leading the NHL in takeaways in the playoffs and allowing an average of fewer than 21 shots on goal per game in the series, the Wild improved to 5-0 at home this postseason with a 16-5 goal differential. The franchise record at Xcel Energy Center was a mere 5-10 prior to this year.
Sharp, coming off a 34-goal, 44-assist season, got just his second goal in 10 playoff games. The Blackhawks, though, managed just 20 shots on Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after stressing the importance of testing him more.
Cooke set Fontaine up for a slap shot on a two-on-one rush early in the game, and the puck sailed over the glass. Fontaine buried his next chance, though, a bad-angle attempt from the front edge of the circle that skidded through Michal Rozsival’s legs after Cooke swiped the puck from the defenseman.
Rangers 5, Penguins 1: In Pittsburgh, Derick Brassard scored twice, including New York’s first power-play goal in 10 games, and the Rangers avoided elimination in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Brassard ended New York’s 0-for-36 slide with the man advantage, beating Marc-Andre Fleury late in the first period. Ryan McDonagh added another power-play goal in the second to help the Rangers force Game 6 in New York on Sunday.
Chris Kreider and Kevin Klein also scored, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots.
Evgeni Malkin had his third goal of the series for Pittsburgh. Fleury made 30 saves.