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Blackhawks vs. Wild Game 4 2015 results: Chicago advances with sweep of Minnesota

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Chicago heads to its fifth Western Conference Final in seven years. That's good, right?

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

For the fifth time in the last seven seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks are headed to the Western Conference Finals, as they defeated the Minnesota Wild, 4-3, on Thursday night to finish off the series sweep. Things got a little interesting in this one, but Corey Crawford and company stood tall in finishing off their rivals from the north.

The Blackhawks played well in the first period, controlling a lot of the play and generating several quality scoring chances. Brandon Saad in particular played extremely well, especially on the forecheck. About half-way through the period, Chicago ran a great break out play, as Johnny Oduya fed Bryan Bickell at the blue line, who then made a great pass across the neutral zone to Brent Seabrook, who was able to beat Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk high - with some help from Marco Scandella's shin pad - to open the scoring. The 'Hawks took that 1-0 lead into the second period.

The middle frame opened with some good back and forth play, until Jonathan Toews took a hooking penalty on Ryan Suter. The 'Hawks killed off that penalty, and as Toews exited the box, he made a fancy pass to Marcus Kruger to free him up for a drive to the net, and drew a penalty on Nino Niedereitter. The Blackhawks would score on the ensuing power play, as Andrew Shaw was able to generate traffic in front of the net and beat Dubnyk on a shot the Wild netminder never saw.

Shortly after though, the Blackhawks suffered a scare, as Michal Roszival went down in a heap while skating backwards to defend. Replays showed that Rozy's ankle had essentially rotated completely the wrong was as he transitioned from skating backwards to forwards, and it was not pretty. He stayed down for a while, required help getting off the ice, and missed the remainder of the game.

The Wild scored just 5 seconds after the Rozy injury, as Erik Haula jammed home a Crawford rebound to cut the Chicago lead to 1. The Wild found life after their first goal, generating a lot of shots and scoring chances, but Crawford stood tall, shutting the door. Minnesota outshot Chicago 18-10 in the period, but Chicago held a 2-1 lead heading to the closing frame.

The third period was extremely back and forth, in the worst kind of way. Rather than up-and-down play, the teams exchanged extended periods of puck domination and scoring chance creation. The Wild would have the puck in the Chicago zone for 45 seconds, then the 'Hawks would clear and return the favor at the other end. It was fast-paced and exciting as a hockey fan, but absolutely terrifying at times as a Blackhawks fan.

Then, Showtime happened (again). Niklas Hjalmarsson made a nifty backhanded flip pass out of the defensive zone, freeing up Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell on a 2-on-1. Bickell was able to collect the rolling puck and feed Kane, who beat Dubnyk five-hole for the second straight game to extend the Chicago lead to 3-1. Marian Hossa would add a shorthanded empty netter later to get the 'Hawks fourth goal. It felt over, but it wasn't.

Jared Spurgeon scored on the remaining power play to cut the lead down to 2. The Wild pulled Dubnyk again, and were able to score another goal with just 1:27 remaining to pull within one. Jonathan Toews had a chance on the empty net, but hit the post, and shortly after the 'Hawks took a took many men penalty with just 14 seconds remaining. A few nerve-wracking Wild shots later, the horn sounded, and the 'Hawks walked away with the game and series win.

Quick hits:

  • The second line of Bickell, Kane, and Brad Richards was great tonight. They generated two of the four Blackhawk goals, and Bickell had the primary assist on both. It was an extremely strong performance by that line to help the 'Hawks get the sweep.
  • There shouldn't have been any doubt remaining that Corey Crawford was absolutely the goalie this team needs to ride, but whatever was still there was certainly quelled tonight. He was huge in the second and third periods, as the Wild were throwing everything at the net and testing him often. He stood tall and willed this team to a victory. This sweep is not possible without him between the pipes.
  • The Blackhawks remain unbeaten in games in which they have a lead going into the third period, in both the regular season and post-season. That is impressive as hell, and should be an encouraging stat as both of the two teams they may end up playing in the Western Conference Finals are great in the third period.
The Blackhawks now await the winner of the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks, who play game 4 tomorrow night in Calgary at 8:30 p.m. CT.

Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter at @FeathersInDaHat.