Wild return the favour again, level series against Blackhawks

Wild forward Justin Fontaine (14) celebrates his goal with Erik Haula (56) during first period...

Wild forward Justin Fontaine (14) celebrates his goal with Erik Haula (56) during first period playoff action against the Blackhawks in Game 4 of their series in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday, May 9, 2014. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:13 AM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. - The Minnesota Wild must have their opponent's attention now.

What remains to be seen is whether the Chicago Blackhawks will snap to attention or the upstart Wild has taken control.

The Wild continued the homer trend of the Western Conference semifinal by claiming a well-earned 4-2 victory Friday over the Blackhawks that evens the best-of-seven set at two wins apiece.

After losing the first two games despite strong efforts that fell short because the Blackhawks simply put the pedal to the medal to break them open, the Wild continued their playoff string of perfection at home ice.

Sure, they the Wild took advantage of some shaky goaltending by Corey Crawford behind a team that looked befuddled before the sellout Xcel Energy Center crowd of 19,405, but much of Chicago's woes can be attributed to Minnesota's determination and speed in an entertaining clash that gives them a perfect 5-0 mark in the State of Hockey.

“We play comfortable here. We play confident,” said Wild winger Charlie Coyle. “That's what we've got to bring on the road. We have to bring that confidence with us.”

Game 5 is Sunday night in the Windy City.

Should the Wild be able to bring their show on the road, the chance exists for a different script in Chicago.

While the Wild players were buzzing around, creating scoring chances and controlling the game, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks looked frustrated, unable to generate any consistent attack.

“We're trying to (frustrate them),” defenceman Jared Spurgeon said. “You try to give them the least amount of time you can with the skill that they have.”

Justin Fontaine, with his first NHL playoff goal, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter and Spurgeon all scored for the hosts.

Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus replied for the Blackhawks.

If the Wild play isn't getting the minds of the Hawks, their lack of offensive chance and shots on goal must be starting to become an irritant.

“I think it’s reflecting of our intensity,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We have to do the same. I don’t really know how to explain it, we have to be better. It’s frustrating to not get a win the last two games on the road. We could have put ourselves in a great spot had we played the way we need to play to try and get a win these last two games, but we didn’t. This series is long from over. That’s the good news. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better than we have been.”

“Well, they play a well-structured game,” added defenceman Duncan Keith, “but I think it comes down to using our speed and supporting one another better. Obviously they’re doing things too, but we can be better as far as using speed to support one another out there and make quicker plays and simpler plays.”

Ilya Bryzgalov surrendered a weak goal when Chicago got on the board in the final minute of the opening frame, but redeemed himself with key stops when Sharp had a second-period breakaway and when Jeremy Morin was alone in front midway through the third period in an 18 save outing.

And now we have a series.

“We’re not here to just try to make a series of it,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo said. “We know the hardest is still yet to come.”

Crawford made 27 stops for a team that's hoping a return home – where they've won all five tilts this spring – solves its ills.

So what will it take?

“A real short memory and reminding ourselves of how good we can be in our building,” Toews said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy. There’s going to be some moments where your stomach drops and you’re not feeling like everything is going your way. That’s the way it goes. You have to find a way to battle through.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SunRandySportak


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