Blackhawks wake up from slumber to take Game 5

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy (8) fight for...

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy (8) fight for the puck during the second period of game five of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 11, 2014 in Chicago, IL, USA. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

Whoever said the much-needed “wakey, wakey” that finally woke up the Chicago Blackhawks isn't of importance.

The key for the defending Stanley Cup champions is they appear to have finally awoken from their mid-second-round-series slumber, and thanks to Sunday's 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

They now need just one more victory to advance to the Western Conference final.

The Blackhawks lead the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 3-2 and will try to close out the series Tuesday in Minnesota.

“The fact that we’ve put ourselves in this position, still looking for that next level, is a really good thing,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’re not satisfied. We’re not happy with the way we played those two games on the road. Lot of room for improvement, but we’re confident we’ll find it.”

According to the fairy tale, Rip Van Winkle's nap lasted 20 years. By comparison, the 140-minute siesta the Hawks took - two games in Minnesota and the first period of Sunday's affair - isn't nearly as long.

It only felt that way to them and their rabid faithful.

The trend looked to be getting even worse, too, when Wild rookie Erik Haula opened the scoring late in the opening frame with one of the best individual-effort goals on these playoffs and silenced the United Center sellout crowd of 22,016.

Haula, the speedy winger drafted in the seventh round in 2009, picked up the puck deep in his own zone, raced by both Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, eluded Brent Seabrook after taking a shot that Corey Crawford stopped, and pounced on the rebound.

Whether it was that goal or finally coming to the realization how important this game was, something finally jolted a Blackhawks team that seemed to be hitting the snooze button time and time again.

“For whatever reason, we couldn’t get right in the first,” Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa said. “I think the second was better.”

Make that much better.

The hosts, booed off the ice at the end of the opening period, came out of the blocks for the second period as if shot from a cannon, dominated the play.

Bryan Bickell's power-play goal, his fourth goal of the series and seven in ten clashes with the Wild counting last year's playoff series, solved Ilya Bryzgalov.

To nobody's surprise, Toews broke the deadlock early in the third period, his fourth game-winning goal of the spring.

“He’s unbelievable. That’s why he’s a superstar,” Hossa said. “He finds a way to score big goals.”

Not only is it the first time this spring the Blackhawks have won when the opposition opened the scoring, it's also the first time any team surrendering the first goal has come out on top in the second round of the NHL playoffs, taking 20 games to do so.

“It sucks to lose a game like this, and obviously when you lose, you're frustrated. You're mad,” Wild head coach Mike 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.”

Think this series is over yet? The home team has won all five games and the Wild have a perfect 5-0 record on home ice.

By comparison, the Blackhawks have just one victory in five road clashes in this year's playoffs.

Plus, we're talking about a Wild team that overcame the exact scenario in the opening round against the Colorado Avalanche, erasing a 3-2 deficit with a home-ice victory and then winning on the road in the seventh-and-deciding game.

Not that they enjoy the feeling of deja vu.

“It would have been a big win for us going back home but there's nothing we can do about it now,” Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. “We've been in this position before and we've always played well when our backs are against the wall, so we'll just get ready for that next one now.”

“We’ve got to win,” added Wild winger Zach Parise. “We just need a better effort. Not that it was terrible. I mean, we had our chance to win at the end of the game and we did some things really well, but I think we can be better. We know we can be better.”

REGIN REAPS REWARD

No assist came on the scoresheet.

Peter Regin's payoff will be peace of mind.

The reward for the Chicago Blackhawks forward was a winning debut but there's no doubt he played a key part.

On a night the defending Stanley Cup champions were trying all kinds of things to find a spark, Regin – a healthy scratch in all the previous playoff games – got into the lineup and made his presence felt.

His biggest moment was drawing the penalty in the second period, a hooking infraction by simply driving to the net, which led to the game-tying power-play goal in his team's 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

“I’m just happy we won,” said Regin, whose last NHL playoff action was with the Ottawa Senators four years ago. “Getting back in the lineup after a pretty long time in such an important game. I’m just happy we won, that’s all that matters.”

Regin's efforts weren't unnoticed. He saw nearly 12 minutes of ice time.

“I thought he came in and gave us a good presence, good speed there, Steeger (Kris Versteeg) too,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “That line was effective for us. We got a four-line rotation which was all right, as well.

“Good response in the first playoff game for him, and we liked what we saw.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SunRandySportak


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