CHICAGO - Right wing Patrick Kane and left wing Bryan Bickell scored two goals each as the Chicago Blackhawks romped to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Chicago has now won five games in a row in this year's playoffs (5-2 overall) and is a perfect 4-0 at the United Center. Game 2 will be televised nationally on NBC-TV Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET) in Chicago before the series moves to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4 next week.
Minnesota, which defeated Colorado in overtime in Game 7 to advance to the second round, is now 1-4 on the road and 4-4 overall in eight playoff games thus far.
Much like last year's series, Minnesota made early mistakes in Friday's game and Chicago was quick to capitalize on them.
It started when Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin received a four-minute high-sticking penalty against Chicago forward Marian Hossa at 13:09 of the first period.
It took Chicago just over 90 seconds to capitalize on the man-advantage as Bickell slammed home his third goal of the playoffs past Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov at 14:48.
With Brodin again in the penalty box for the same dumb high-sticking call midway through the second period, Chicago capitalized again on the power-play. Left wing Marian Hossa scored his second goal of the playoffs a little over a minute later at 11:21, putting the Blackhawks ahead 2-0.
Minnesota finally broke the shutout at 2:19 of the third period when defenseman Clayton Stoner scored his first goal of the playoffs on a slapshot past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
The Wild tied the game at 6:56 on a perfect centering pass through the crease from center Erik Haula to fellow center Kyle Brodziak, who tallied his team co-leading third goal of the postseason.
But that tie lasted less than two minutes as Kane scored his team-leading fourth goal of the playoffs at 8:22.
And then as if to add insult to injury, Kane scored again at 16:47, followed by Bickell's second goal of the game, an empty-net score at 17:19 to seal things up.
Although Minnesota outshot Chicago 32-22, Crawford once again rose to the occasion for the Blackhawks, stopping all but two of the Wild's offerings.
Bryzgalov, meanwhile, stopped just 17 of Chicago's shots.
In a departure from the first round series vs. St. Louis, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville did not start his team's first line (featuring center Jonathan Toews and Kane) in Friday's game.
Quenneville opted to have two centers - Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw - flanked by left wing Brandon Saad and regular defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Minnesota came into the game with definite goalie problems. Normal starter Darcy Kuemper did not play Friday because of what the team is calling an upper-body injury.
But several media reports from the Twin Cities indicate he suffered a concussion in Game 7 of the first round series with Colorado. If true, that would be the second concussion Kuemper has suffered in a month.
Bryzgalov, who relieved Kuemper in Game 7 vs. Colorado, is now 1-3 in the playoffs with a goals-against average of 4.35. As one Chicago radio station reporter said, "The Blackhawks aren't saying it, but they're probably licking their chops right now."
NOTES: Chicago announced that center Andrew Shaw left the game early in the second period due to an unspecified injury and would not return. ... The NHL announced that Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, Boston forward Patrice Bergeron and San Jose forward Brent Burns are finalists for the 2013-14 NHL Foundation Player Award. ... Attendance Friday was 22,116. ... Chicago forward Patrick Sharp has scored the most goals in the NHL since the 2009 postseason (33), while forward Patrick Kane has scored 32. But while Kane has 3 goals thus far in this season's playoffs, Sharp has just one. ... Coming into Friday's game, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford has a career playoff record of 25-17 with 3 shutouts, a 2.03 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 43 appearances. His 25 wins ranks fourth all-time in Blackhawks history. ... Minnesota left wing Zach Parise came into the game tied for the NHL lead with 10 points in the playoffs. ... This is the first time the Wild have reached the second round of the NHL playoffs since 2003.