Hockey / Sports

Minnesota Wild players skate by their goalie after the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane shot the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov (30) in overtime in Game 6 of a Western Conference semifinal at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Chicago won, 2-1, to clinch the series. (Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Wild's season ends in a classic Game 6 overtime

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- What theater, what drama.

It's amazing the ushers at Xcel Energy Center didn't hand out beta-blockers and defibrillators Tuesday night.

The Wild and Blackhawks had a classic playoff battle on Tuesday night with 19,396 out-of-breath patrons who were standing throughout.

But in the end, the Wild's season came to a sudden death thanks to a bad bounce off a stanchion en route to a 2-1 Game6 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Eight months after the Wild reported for training camp, Patrick Kane's overtime goal forced the Wild to pack up its lockers for the offseason.

The Wild had the better of the play and chances, but it just couldn't convert a goal beyond Erik Haula's tying breakaway goal in the second.

About halfway into overtime, Brent Seabrook's center-ice dump-in so he could make a line change hit a stanchion on the glass behind Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The puck ricocheted in front of the net. Peter Regin overskated it, but Kane did not and backhanded the puck under the bar.

"We were all in shock that it happened," Wild winger Zach Parise said. "It's not the way we envisioned losing the series because of that."

The Wild was trying to rally from 0-2 and 2-3 series deficits for a second consecutive round to force a Game7. Instead, the defending Stanley Cup champs advanced to play the Anaheim-Los Angeles winner in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks hold a 3-2 series lead.

"Minnesota played a great game -- they probably deserved to win," Kane said. "It was just a matter of converting on a scoring chance that we got."

The Blackhawks are 8-0 in Game 6 clinchers, including a 6-0 road mark during the Jonathan Toews/Kane era.

After two failed third-period power plays and holding the Blackhawks to no shots in the first 12 minutes of the period, Corey Crawford held the Wild at bay.

The Wild had so many chances. Mikael Granlund hit a post. Crawford robbed Nino Niederreiter. Justin Fontaine and Mikko Koivu had shots blocked with wide-open nets in front -- two of the 19 the Blackhawks blocked through regulation.

With the Wild trailing 1-0 after one period, Haula, the former Gophers star who has had a coming of age this series, turned on the afterburners, caught up to Matt Cooke's outlet bank pass, skated past a sliding Johnny Oduya and scored a breakaway goal.

It was Haula's fifth point in six games this series and fourth goal of the playoffs, tying Parise and Granlund for the team lead.

From then, it was on. The Wild began to pressure every sequence, so much so that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had to use his timeout to try to calm his team after an icing.

The Parise-Granlund-Jason Pominville line, which was flirting for a goal all night (Granlund had three shots in the first), was particularly hemming Chicago in its zone almost every shift and had several close calls.

But every step of the way, Crawford was there to save the day. And when he wasn't Pominville swung and missed on one Granlund rebound attempt and Dany Heatley fanned on another point-blank slapshot try.

There was one crazy sequence when both teams traded chances.

After Crawford stopped Pominville's bullet from way out, Bryzgalov preserved the 1-1 game by stopping Patrick Sharp on a breakaway for the second time in the series. The Wild countered quickly and Parise nearly scored. One trip down the ice later, Crawford stopped Fontaine on a breakaway and then his rebound try.

Later in the period, Crawford again denied Fontaine in alone, and then his rebound stab yet again after Fontaine stole a puck from Joakim Nordstrom.

You could not have asked for a worse start if you're the Wild.

The crowd had been rabid all postseason, so the Blackhawks said all morning that scoring the first goal would be important. They achieved that less than two minutes in when defenseman Keith Ballard lost a puck in the corner to Kris Versteeg.

Versteeg, scratched twice in the series, scored his first goal of the playoffs when he centered from along the goal line about 12 feet to the left of Bryzgalov. His shot deflected in off defenseman Clayton Stoner's leg.

The Wild responded well and tried to hop aboard the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line. There were some frantic forechecks, but the Wild couldn't buy the equalizer until Haula's second-period beauty.

"I can't believe it. I can't believe that's how it ended," Haula said after the game "... Right now it just feels empty."

Added coach Mike Yeo: "We still have to get better. But this is a special group and we're very proud of them. ... It hurts to lose."

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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WILD


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