Hockey / Sports

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) and Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) battled for the puck in the first period as the Minnesota Wild took on the Chicago Blackhawks during Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference semifinals in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Wild's Parise finally breaks through against Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Much as he did throughout their playoff series last season, Jonathan Toews and the Hawks' first line has blanketed Wild winger Zach Parise like the polar vortex in Chicago this winter for the first two games of this second-round NHL playoff series. The Hawks have been unrelenting, barely giving Parise room to maneuver.

The results spoke for themselves -- before Tuesday.

Through the first two games, Parise had an assist but was also on the ice for three Hawks' goals in Game 2. But in the third period Tuesday, Parise finally broke through, scoring on a late power play and giving an emphatic fist pump and primal yell to the crowd afterward. His frustration was over.

The Wild had hoped to alleviate some of their matchup problems with their return home for their 4-0 Game 3 victory, thanks to having the last change during stoppages of play. But does having the last change really make a big difference? It depends who you ask.

"It definitely makes a difference," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said.

Countered Hawks winger Bryan Bickell: "No, I don't think it's a big deal."

Down 2-0 in the series entering Tuesday, the Wild were grasping for any advantage they could get. For Wild coach Mike Yeo, being able to get one of his top scorers in a prime matchup was something he was not taking for granted. Although through the first two periods Tuesday, Yeo put Parise's line on the ice against Toews' line after some stoppages in play.

"It's going to be a factor for sure," Yeo said of the last change. "But at the same time, this is a deep team. We'll be looking for matchups ... some of it might be a personnel matchup, a zone matchup, an opportunity to get guys into an offensive zone faceoff or certain guys into a defensive zone faceoff."

The Hawks contained Parise, but it was the Wild supporting cast that scored the decisive goals Tuesday with Erik Haula netting the first less than two minutes into the third period and Mikael Granlund getting the second at the 4 minute, 18 second mark. Parise's goal at 17:25 was gravy before Granlund's empty-netter.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said before the game he wasn't sure how the matchups would shake out, adding that the Wild showed a willingness to mix their lines in their series against the Avalanche.

"I'm sure that line matching is going to be something we'll have to keep an eye on as we go along here," Quenneville said.

For the Hawks, their main focus was keeping eyes on Parise, no matter whom he took the ice against.

"I think you're just aware who's out there," defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "He's a tremendous player and not going to sleep when he's out there I think is a good idea. He only needs one chance and sometimes not even that."

That's about all Parise needed Tuesday.

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BLACKHAWKS


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