=== Blackhawks, Wild battle for series edge in Chicago ===
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild entered this Western Conference
semifinal battle as considerable underdogs to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they
have a chance to grab a series lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions
in Sunday's Game 5 showdown in the Windy City.
Minnesota dropped the first two tests of this best-of-seven set at Chicago's
United Center and was outscored by a combined 9-3 margin in those setbacks.
However, the Wild righted themselves at home by taking Game 3 by a 4-0 count
before knotting the series at two games apiece with Friday's 4-2 triumph at
Xcel Energy Center.
In order to grab their first lead of the series, however, the Wild will have
to be the first team to beat Chicago on home ice in this postseason. The
Blackhawks, winners of two Cup titles in the previous four years, are 5-0 at
the United Center in the 2014 playoffs and boast a 16-2 record at home since
the start of last spring's postseason.
Chicago will aim for a seventh consecutive home playoff victory on Sunday
Minnesota is just 1-5 as the road team in the 2014 playoffs, with its lone
away victory coming in Game 7 of the opening round against Colorado. The Wild
are 2-15 over their past 17 road tilts in the postseason.
On Friday, Matt Cooke provided an immediate spark in his return from a
suspension to help the Wild remained undefeated at home in these playoffs.
Cooke received a seven-game ban for kneeing Colorado Avalanche defenseman
Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of the opening round, and he didn't take long to make
his presence felt, helping give Minnesota an early lead.
The antagonizing forward stole the puck from Chicago defenseman Michal
Rozsival on the forecheck and dished to Justin Fontaine, who went top shelf to
beat Crawford from the right circle 7:24 into the game. It was the first
career playoff goal for Fontaine.
"It's fun to contribute and it's fun to chip in. It's just fun to be back out
there again," Cooke said. "I should have fresh legs. I've got to go out there
and lead the way and hopefully my energy is contagious."
In addition to the assist, Cooke also registered two shots on goal and
delivered five hits in nearly 16 minutes of ice time.
Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon supplied the other
goals for the Wild, who have outscored the opposition 16-5 while winning all
five games at Xcel Energy Center.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 18 saves to help the Wild even the series.
Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus each had goals for Chicago, while Corey
Crawford stopped 27 shots in the setback.
"They worked for everything they got and we got to do the same," said
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
While Cooke returned from a suspension to make in impact in Game 4, the
Blackhawks lost forward Brandon Bollig for two games due to a boarding
incident in Friday's contest.
The NHL handed Bollig a two-game suspension for his hit from behind on
Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard late in the second period. Bollig was
assessed with a minor penalty on the play, while Ballard was injured an did
not return to the game.
Ballard has endured a history of concussions, the latest of which cost him
seven games early in the regular season. He had returned to the lineup in Game
3 after missing the final 14 games of the regular season and nine postseason
tilts with a pulled groin muscle.
Both Ballard and forward Matt Moulson, who sat out Game 4 due to a lower-body
injury, did not make the trip to Chicago for tonight's game.
In addition to Bollig, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw missed a third straight
game with a lower-body injury he suffered in the series opener and expects to
sit out again on Sunday.
The winner of Sunday's contest will get a chance to end the series when the
clubs meet in Minnesota for Game 6 on Tuesday.
05/11 10:37:28 ET