After two mediocre performances in Minnesota, the Blackhawks hoped to recapture some momentum at the United Center on Sunday night. Coach Joel Quenneville mixed up his lineup again, but a signature play by Jonathan Toews changed the complexion of the game – and perhaps the series.
Quenneville inserted Kris Versteeg, Peter Regin and Sheldon Brookbank into the lineup in place of suspended forward Brandon Bollig, Jeremy Morin and Michal Rozsival. All three players responded; Versteeg and Regin combined to win nine of 14 faceoffs and Regin showed a lot of speed bringing the puck into the offensive zone. Brookbank skated 17:13 and was credited with three hits and one blocked shot.
The moves gave Quenneville options, and he mixed his lines frequently as always. But he showed confidence to roll all four of his lines throughout the games, a change from the previous games in the series.
Bryan Bickell scored the Hawks’ first goal, tipping a Patrick Kane shot past Ilya Bryzgalov on a power play in the middle of the second period.
In the third, Toews scored his fourth game-winning goal to end a shift that exemplifies why he’s an elite player. He had a big hit in the corner, fought his way to the front of the net and tipped in a bouncing puck to give the Hawks the lead for the first time in almost nine periods.
Toews and Michal Handzus both won 12 of 20 faceoffs in the game.
Brandon Saad has a strong game and saw his ice time increase to 16:42, only 58 seconds of which came on the power play. Saad was credited with three shots on net and three hits in the game. Bickell led the team with four hits, but played only 11 minutes of even strength ice time in the win.
If the Hawks needed their big guns to show up, they got a much better performance on Sunday night. Patrick Sharp had an assist on both Hawks goals, and Kane and Marian Hossa each added an assist.
Quenneville skated all four of his defensemen relatively even minutes as well. Duncan Keith – who had four giveaways in the game – led all Blackhawks in ice time, but was on the ice for only 22:52 in the win. Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson were barely over 20 minutes in the game, and all six defensemen were between 17 and 23 minutes in the game.
Corey Crawford allowed one goal – to Erik Haula in the first period – while facing 28 shots in the victory.
The Hawks only had to kill one penalty, a Seabrook tripping call that came only 29 seconds in the game. Chicago converted one of their two power play opportunities in the game. As the final moments ticked away, a few Wild players took their cheap shots and Johnny Oduya and Nino Niederreiter were both hit with unsportsmanlike penalties after the game officially ended.
Game Six is set to start at 8 pm CT on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.