Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Patrick Kane kicked his quest for a second straight Conn Smythe Trophy into high gear on Friday.
Kane scored the first two of Chicago's three unanswered goals in the third period, as the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks downed the Minnesota Wild, 5-2, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series at United Center.
Chicago carried a 2-0 lead into the third, but Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak scored under five minutes apart early in the frame to even the score.
Kane took over from there, netting the game-winner with a wicked backhander at 8:22 before potting his fifth of the playoffs later in the frame to give the Blackhawks a two-goal cushion.
"It was one of those plays where I was about to drop it to (Patrick Sharp) but I saw both defensemen kind of go to him," Kane said of his tiebreaking goal. "I just tried to get in on the backhand and made a good shot."
Bryan Bickell, who opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first, added an empty-netter to help Chicago draw first blood in this best-of-seven series.
Corey Crawford registered 30 saves for the Blackhawks, who bounced the Wild from the playoffs in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Ilya Bryzgalov got the start in net for the Wild in place of an injured Darcy Kuemper, who was forced to exit Minnesota's Game 7 victory over Colorado after sustaining an undisclosed injury late in the contest. Bryzgalov stopped the only shot he faced in relief against the Avalanche, but turned aside just 17- of-21 shots in Friday's setback.
"There wasn't enough urgency in the details and the little things that add up to make the difference at this time of year," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. "We slipped a little bit from last game. We didn't bring the same level and so we'll rectify that."
Game 2 of this series is slated for Sunday in Chicago.
Brodziak's tap-in from in front off a slick pass from Erik Haula tied the game at 2-2 just under seven minutes into the third, but the Blackhawks responded with three answered goals, starting with Kane's backhander.
The Chicago winger carried the disc down the left side and into the Minnesota zone before cutting through the high slot, where he faked a drop pass. Given room to work, Kane held off his defender and worked into the low right circle before lifting a filthy backhand over the short-side shoulder of Bryzgalov.
Kane doubled Chicago's lead at 16:47 when Sharp's shot from the right point deflected off Ben Smith's stick in the circle and ricocheted to the low left side, where Kane was waiting to send the puck home for a 4-2 lead.
Bickell buried an empty-netter 32 seconds later to account for the final margin.
Early on, Minnesota's Jonas Brodin was sent off for a high-sticking double- minor at 13:09 of the opening frame and the Blackhawks cashed in less than two minutes into the man advantage.
While working in the Minnesota zone, Brent Seabrook fired a heavy slapper from the high point that tipped off Bickell's stick in front and slipped through Bryzgalov for a 1-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first.
Minnesota nearly found the equalizer late in the first after a scrum in front of the Chicago cage saw the disc squirt across the goal line. The referees ruled it no goal immediately, citing that the puck was covered and the whistle had blown. Video review confirmed the call on the ice and the Wild went into the first intermission trailing by a goal.
Brodin was sent off for high-sticking again 10:09 into the second stanza, and the Blackhawks capitalized on the power play once again.
Just after Crawford denied Zach Parise on a short-handed breakaway, Chicago worked the disc around the point in the Minnesota zone before Brandon Saad received a pass in the slot and stickhandled past a defender.
From the low right circle, Saad backhanded a pass to the low left side for Marian Hossa, who one-timed the disc past Bryzgalov for a 2-0 lead at 11:21.
The Wild sliced the margin in half 2:19 into the third after Stoner threw a shot on net from atop the left circle. The shot snuck through Crawford and trickled toward the goal line, but defenseman Johnny Oduya was able to keep the puck from going in. However, Oduya swept the puck into his own skate, causing the disc to trickle across the goal line to bring the Wild within 2-1.
Brodziak's third of the playoffs pulled Minnesota even at 6:56.
Hossa also had two assists, while Seabrook and Sharp supplied two helpers apiece in the win ... Chicago's Andrew Shaw left the game in the first period and did not return after absorbing a hit from Stoner ... Minnesota made its first appearance in the second round of the playoffs since its first postseason appearance in 2003, which ended with a loss to Anaheim in the conference finals ... The Wild fell to 1-7 all-time in the first contest of a series and haven't won a Game 1 since their first-ever playoff game, a 4-2 win against Colorado on April 10, 2003.