ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild capitalized on offensive opportunities and used stifling defense to beat Chicago 4-2 to
even the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
"When you are faced with some adversity and our backs are up against the wall, this group comes out fighting," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Again, I point to our leadership."
One of the veteran leaders, Matt Cooke, returned from his seven-game kneeing suspension to give the Wild a jolt. He assisted on Justin Fontaine's opening goal at 7:24 in the first period.
"I really liked the way that we played the game," Yeo said. "We've been saying a lot of this. We have to play smart, but we haven't been playing safe. We've been getting on the attack. That was an exciting game."
Patrick Sharp snapped out of his slump by scoring for the Blackhawks in the final minute of the opening period to tie the game at 1-1.
"It's tough to give up a goal in the last minute of any period," Yeo said. "It's always tough for a team, but I liked the way we came out, the focus we had to start the second period."
Jason Pominville got a little creative when he scored from behind the net in the second. He shot the puck off of the skate of Corey Crawford. That gave the Wild a 2-1 lead.
Crawford faced a barrage of shots on the night. He made 27 saves, but he gave up four goals for the second straight game.
And it was a game that was dominated in a lot of ways by the Wild. Minnesota outshot Chicago 31-20, they outhit the Blackhawks 22-7 and they held a 34-25 advantage on faceoffs.
"We're not here to just try to make a series of it," Yeo said. "We know we're playing a great team. We know we're playing a team that won the Stanley Cup last year … They have an extremely skilled team, but that said, we think we have a really good team."
It was an impressive showing in a very important game against a team that knocked the Wild out of the playoffs last year in Game 5.
"We played a good game, but we have to know that going into that next one that we have to play even better," Yeo said.
Nino Niederreiter's goal at 7:12 in the second turned out to be the game winner. It came just 44 seconds after Michal Handzus tied at 2.
Jared Spurgeon's power play goal early in the third period made it a 4-2 game and the Wild held on from there. Ryan Suter was a plus-2 on the night and he added two assists.
The Wild also got a big game from Ilya Bryzgalov. He allowed two goals on 22 shots, but he made a pair of game-changing saves on the night, including a breakaway by Sharp.
The teams will return to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday night and be back in Minnesota for Game 6 on Tuesday night.
"It's great we won the game. Real happy about that. Real happy to be even in the series, but we know there's a lot of work ahead of us," Yeo said.