CHICAGO (AP) — Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks were well aware they’d been playoff underachievers since they captured the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Now, they’re eyeing another championship. And they just took an important step toward it.
Hossa scored twice to back a strong effort by goalie Corey Crawford, and Chicago beat the Minnesota Wild 5-1 Thursday night to win the first-round playoff series 4-1.
The Blackhawks will face either San Jose or Detroit, if the Red Wings get past Anaheim, in the next round.
“We knew we hadn’t done it in two years,” Hossa said. “Minnesota, they still have a great team and are missing some players. We found a way. Now we get ready for the next round.”
The way the Blackhawks have dominated, anything less than a trip to the Stanley Cup finals would be a disappointment for them.
They got off to a record start and captured the Presidents’ Trophy for finishing with more points than any other team. Now, they’re eyeing the biggest prize of all. And after bowing out in the first round the past two years, they sure are looking good.
Even so, coach Joel Quenneville insisted they need to step it up a notch.
“It’s not the regular season,” he said. “There’s another appetite that we’ve got to get as well. I don’t think we should be happy where we’re at with our play. Let’s get angry as we go along here.”
Hossa scored off a feed from Jonathan Toews late in the first period. Marcus Kruger made it 2-0 with a wraparound early in the second, and Hossa chased the Wild’s Josh Harding when he knocked in a rebound minutes later.
Then, after Torrey Mitchell scored for Minnesota, Chicago’s Andrew Shaw scored against Darcy Kuemper. Patrick Sharp added his fifth goal of the series early in the third period, and that was more than enough for Crawford.
The Blackhawks became the third team to advance in this postseason, along with San Jose and Ottawa. They also bucked a recent trend of early exits for Presidents’ Trophy winners.
The Wild were also short-handed after losing one of their top scorers in Dany Heatley to season-ending left shoulder surgery late in the season. They also had to get by without goalie Niklas Backstrom after he suffered a leg injury in warm-ups before Game 1.
That forced the Wild to go with Harding, who played in just five games during the regular season after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last summer.
For a moment, the Wild looked like they might get back into this one.
Moments after Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon hit the right post, Mitchell ripped a one-timer past Crawford midway through the second period. But Shaw answered 35 seconds later with his first career playoff goal when he swept the puck in from a bad angle just to the right of the net, making it 4-1.
As for Crawford, there was some debate in Chicago over whether he or Ray Emery should be the No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. Both were terrific during the regular season. Emery’s lower body injury ended the discussion, and Crawford was nothing but solid in this series.
He even had the fans chanting his name at several points. For example, when Crawford stopped a routine shot by Jason Pominville from the wing and scrambled back toward the middle of the net for a neat pad save against Mikko Koivu on the rebound. That foiled another power play by the Wild after they went 0 for 15 in the first four games.