(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild hope to push the Western Conference semifinals to the limit on Tuesday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 from Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild entered this best-of-seven series as heavy underdogs against the defending Stanley Cup champions and fell behind 2-0 in Games 1 and 2 in Chicago before evening the set at 2-2 on home ice. The Blackhawks, however, regained the upper hand in the series with a victory in Sunday's Game 5 and will try to punch another ticket to the Western Conference finals tonight.
A victory tonight would give the Blackhawks, who also won the Cup in 2010, their fourth trip to the third round in six seasons. Chicago, of course, is trying to become the first team to win consecutive Stanley Cup titles since Detroit pulled off the repeat in 1997 and '98.
Chicago posted a 2-1 decision in the Windy City to grab a 3-2 lead. Jonathan Toews registered the winning goal early in the third period and Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots to put the Blackhawks one win away from the West finals.
Bryan Bickell also scored and Patrick Sharp contributed a pair of assists for the Blackhawks.
"The whole game, the whole series has been very tight," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we showed more determination in the puck area tonight."
In order to end the series in six games, the Blackhawks will have to become the first road team in this postseason to win at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota is 5-0 in St. Paul in the 2014 playoffs and last lost a postseason game on home ice when Chicago won Game 4 of last spring's opening-round series. The Blackhawks went on to win that set with a Game 5 victory on home ice.
"We definitely would like to finish it there," Chicago forward Marian Hossa said of Game 6. "We know how hard it is to play in their building and we know we have to be better than we were in the last three games."
If Minnesota is able to stay perfect at home on Tuesday, the clubs will meet Thursday at the United Center for a decisive Game 7.
Erik Haula picked up the lone tally for the Wild on Sunday, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 26 saves in defeat.
"We had a pretty good start, first period, but then I thought we got soft in our game," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said.
Minnesota grabbed a 1-0 lead on Haula's goal with 3:27 left in the first, but Bickell tied it with a power-play goal around the midway point of the second period. The score stayed 1-1 until Chicago's captain delivered the eventual game-winner early in the third period.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead with 4:33 played in the third. Hossa kept control of the puck behind the Minnesota cage and drifted from the right side back to the left before dishing into the circle for Sharp. His try to the net was furthered by Hossa, then Toews fended off a Wild checker at the right post and backhanded the rebound home.
Crawford backed up the tally by stopping all 14 Minnesota shots in the final 20 minutes. Bryzgalov was called to the bench with 1:47 on the clock, and Crawford endured some close calls on crease rushes by the visitors before the buzzer.
"It (stinks) to lose a game like this, and obviously when you lose, you're frustrated, you're mad," Yeo said. "But I think there's been enough in this series where we should feel confident still. That said, we also recognize that we'd better be ready."
Minnesota dressed defenseman Skip Prosser in place of Keith Ballard, who departed Game 4 with an upper-body injury after being checked from behind by Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig. Ballard is questionable for Game 6, as is forward Matt Moulson, who sat out the last two games due to an unspecified lower-body injury.
Bollig sat out the first of his two-game suspension levied on Saturday and will complete the ban tonight.
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw missed a fourth straight game Sunday with a lower-body injury he suffered in the series opener. He expects to sit out again on Tuesday.