Toews gets game winner as Hawks edge Wild 2-1 to take 3-2 series lead.

Jonathan Toews had a rebound goal early in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Sunday night to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as the Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses in Minnesota that handed the momentum to the Wild heading into Game 5.But the Blackhawks were back at the United Center, where they improved to 6-0 in this postseason and 17-2 over the past two playoffs.Erik Haula scored in the first period for the Wild, and Ilya Bryzgalov had 26 stops. Minnesota became the first team to score first in the second round of the NHL playoffs and lose, dropping that record to 19-1.Game 6 will be Tuesday night in Minnesota, where the Wild are undefeated in this postseason.Minnesota had a chance to grab the lead in the third but Crawford made a nice kick save on Cody McCormick about 2½ minutes into the period. He also had a solid glove stop on Ryan Suter with the Blackhawks clinging to a 2-1 lead with 4:38 to go.Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp combined to put the Hawks in front 4½ minutes into the third. Hossa sent the puck in front to Toews at the right post. The captain was stopped by Bryzgalov, but he managed to slam home a backhand for his fifth of the playoffs.Toews also had a big hit on Wild forward Mikael Granlund right before he scored the winning goal.The first period looked similar to much of the past two games in Minnesota, with the Wild using their speed and checking ability to shut down the Hawks high-powered attack. The Wild also outworked the defending Stanley Cup champions early on as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville tried several line combinations looking for a spark. Brent Seabrook was whistled for tripping just 29 seconds into the game, and Granlund sent an open look off the outside of the right post on the ensuing power play.A terrific individual effort by Haula put Minnesota in front at 16:33 of the first. He drove through the Hawk zone and kept moving after his first try was stopped by Crawford, flipping a backhand into the net for his third goal of the postseason.It was still 1-0 at the conclusion of the first period, leading to some boos from the frustrated crowd of 22,016. The Wild had eight shots on goal at the first break, compared to six for the Blackhawks, who started to generate more chances in the second, but most of its early shots came from outside and Bryzgalov gobbled them up easily. Marcus Kruger sent a pass through the Minnesota crease, but no one was there for the Blackhawks.It took a well-timed dash by a seldom-used role player to set up the Hawks third goal in the past three games. Playing for the first time since April 12, Peter Regin drove to the net to draw a hooking penalty on Jonas Brodin.Regin was active for the first time in the playoffs after the Blackhawks scratched Andrew Shaw with a lower-body injury, and Brandon Bollig sat out with a two-game suspension for boarding Wild defenseman Keith Ballard in Game 4.On the ensuing power play, Patrick Kane’s slap shot went off Bickell’s left leg and past Bryzgalov to make it 1-1 at 9:18 of the second. It was Bickell’s sixth goal of the playoffs.The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 15-6 in the second, but it was still tied going into the third.

NOTES—Game 7 would be Thursday in the United Center. … The Wild played without injured Ballard and Matt Moulson . … Michal Rozsival was scratched after he struggled in Game 4. D Sheldon Brookbank and F Kris Versteeg returned to the Hawks lineup.

Bears Draft Recap

This is how the Chicago Tribune recaps the Bears selections.

Round 1, 14th selection overall
The pick: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech cornerback
The impact: Aaron Donald, the All-American defensive tackle from Pitt, who would have been an ideal fit in the Bears’ defense came off the board at No. 13, right before the Bears went on the clock. So that left Bears GM Phil Emery with a menu of secondary players to choose from in Fuller, safeties Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and corner Darqueze Dennard. But Fuller’s versatility and toughness stood out. He has the flexibility to play outside and slide inside to cover the slot. He has good awareness and is a sound tackler. And while the Bears still have Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman as starters at corner, Tillman is back on a one-year deal and Fuller immediately becomes the most likely successor.
Emery says: “What makes Kyle unique is his combination of length and athleticism and versatility and smarts and toughness. It’s hard to find all those qualities in a corner along with somebody who has been really productive.”

Round 2, 51st selection overall
The pick: Ego Ferguson, LSU defensive tackle
The impact: After narrowly missing out on a chance to draft Aaron Donald to fill a need at defensive tackle in the first round, the Bears addressed the position on Day 2 by nabbing Ferguson. Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan came off the board Friday night before the Bears ever went on the clock. And so Emery ultimately went after Ferguson, who contributed 58 tackles, 3.5 for loss and one sack as a junior last season. Ferguson’s size and athleticism are eye-catching. But he doesn’t have a long track record of success and is figured to be something of a project at the position.
Emery says: “With Ego Ferguson, we were very much looking for players who can be physical at the point of attack and help us stop the run. … There’s still a lot of upside in him. He’s a very powerful, very strong, tough inside player. The things that kept coming up when you watched him against SEC tape was that he controlled the front. People could not run the ball up inside when he was on the field. And that was a big attraction for us.”

Round 3, 81st selection overall
The pick: Will Sutton, Arizona State
The impact: With the selection of two defensive tackles in succession Friday, Emery made it clear the success of his defense starts up front. With Sutton added to the defensive line a round after fellow defensive tackle Ego Ferguson from LSU joined the mix, the Bears clearly have their sights set on stabilizing their run defense. Sutton is a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, making up for his size (6 feet, 303 pounds) with quickness and good footwork. But managing his weight will be a priority. Sutton had a breakthrough junior season playing at 285 pounds, then seemed to slow a little when beefed up to 320 last fall. The Bears have an eye on keeping him much closer to his 2012 weight in the NFL and believe Sutton has shown the dedication in the pre-draft process in focusing on that initiative. Sutton weighed in at the combine at 303 pounds but said Friday he may be close to 290 now.
Emery says: “(The predraft weight loss) played a role. Because it says that he’s dedicated toward improving himself. And when he sets his mind to something, he can accomplish it. There’s a lot of pressure on young people. He wants to achieve. He was told by people that he trusted that he needed to gain weight and get bigger. And maybe he needed to gain a little bit, but not that much. And I think once he did, it was hard to get it back down. It affected his play. But you’re still talking about somebody who was Player of the Year in his conference on defense.”

Round 4, 117th selection overall
The pick: Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona running back
The impact: The Bears were figured to be in the mix for added running back depth in this draft and found a performer in Carey who has been majorly productive on the ground during his college career. But Carey also brings to the table the skill and willingness to be solid in pass protection, a top prerequisite for head coach Marc Trestman when he’s assessing candidates to be the back-up to Pro Bowler Matt Forte. Over his final two seasons at Arizona, Carey rang up 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns. He doesn’t have blazing speed and has been criticized for exposing himself to too many hits with his running style. But with Michael Ford, an undrafted rookie in 2013, as the other candidate to back up Forte, Carey should find opportunity early to carve out a nice in the Bears offense.

Round 4, 131st selection overall (from Broncos)
The pick: Brock Vereen, Minnesota safety
The trade: Bears get Nos. 131 and 246 (7th round) in 2014; Broncos get No. 156 (5th round) in 2014 and fifth-round pick in 2015.

Round 6, 183rd selection overall
The pick: David Fales, San Jose St. quarterback
The impact: The Bears invested a sixth-round pick in a backup to starter Jay Cutler, presumably to establish some long-term stability at a position where the Bears have lacked it. Fales cites his anticipation, accuracy and mechanics as his best assets. The Bears like his toughness taking hits and the 72.5 completion percentage in 2012. His arm strength is good but not elite, and at 6 feet 2 he is shorter than the prototype. His intelligence and work ethic should help his growth.Fales joins veteran Jordan Palmer and first-year player Jerrod Johnson in the backup competition. Palmer and Fales are friends. They met last year as counselors as a passing camp, and Fales trained with Palmer for a week this offseason. Palmer, in a phone conversation Saturday, called Fales “a solid dude and a really cool guy” who will fit well into the quarterbacks room. Phil Emery on May 1 said he didn’t believe in drafting a late-round quarterback with the intent to eventually plan for him to be a starter. But Emery also has said he doesn’t like drafting players with a ceiling. Time will tell which applies best to Fales. In the meantime, coach Marc Trestman has a young quarterback to mold.

Round 6, 191st selection overall
The pick: Pat O’Donnell, Miami punter
The impact: O’Donnell is now the favorite to win the Bears’ punting competition, given the team’s investment in him. He understands the importance of directional punting, and he told Chicago media Saturday that he has worked diligently on that part of his game. O’Donnell believes his experience in Cincinnati prepared him for poor weather conditions he could face in Chicago. He’s a strong guy, too. He bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times at the scouting combine. By comparison, Bears’ second-round defensive tackle Ego Ferguson did 24 reps. Inexperienced pro punters Tress Way and Drew Butler were on the Bears’ roster entering the draft.

Round 7, 246th selection overall
The pick: Charles Leno Jr., Boise St. offensive lineman
The impact: Leno, who’s 6 foot 4 and 303 pounds,  is a good athlete whose long 34 3/8-inch arms help him win blocks. He started his last 39 games at Boise St., a streak that included 26 games at left tackle and 13 at right guard. He’s expected to compete for a backup role. To make the team, he must improve his lower body strength and his base anchoring in pass protection.

Bollig out for games six and seven, suspended for boarding

Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig has been handed a two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety. He will miss Games 5 and 6 for the Blackhawks against the Wild. Bollig was suspended for his hit on Wild defenseman Keith Ballard in Game 4, being assesed a boarding penalty in the game.In nine games this postseason, Bollig has no points, averaging 6:09 of ice time per game. The good news for the Hawks is that they have plenty of players that they can shuffle into the lineup in place of Bollig.

Wild beat Hawks 4-2 to even series 2-2.

ST. PAUL—The Minnesota Wild have turned their home ice into a deafening, discouraging place for opponents to play in the playoffs.For the second straight game, they dominated the defending Stanley Cup champion  Blackhawks.Jason Pominville scored in the second period off the back of Corey Crawford’s skate, and the Wild beat the Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night to even their Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece.

“It’s been fun to play here. I don’t know what it is, but we have to find a way to bring that on the road as well,” said Jared Spurgeon, whose third-period goal gave the Wild a cushion for the final stretch while the fans cheered and chanted louder and louder.

“They play hard in their building, and they’re good in their building, and they check well so it’s tough to get momentum in here,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Matt Cooke returned from his seven-game kneeing suspension to give the Wild a jolt, assisting on Justin Fontaine’s opening goal, and Nino Niederreiter also scored.

“I think I should have fresh legs. I have to go out there and lead the way. Hopefully my energy is contagious,” Cooke said.Yes, it was. Cooke had a team-high five hits — the Blackhawks were only credited with seven — to help the Wild hold an intensity advantage from start to finish.

“He brings a physical presence,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “You never know what he’s going to do, so you’ve got to be aware of him out there.”

Crawford made 27 saves, but he gave up four goals for the second straight game.

“We’ve just got to play the way we can: Move the puck and play with speed and skill, make the right plays at the right time,” Crawford said. “Everyone’s got confidence in everyone else in this room, so we’ve just got to play together.”

Patrick Sharp snapped out of his slump with his second postseason goal and Michal Handzus also scored, but the Blackhawks again found themselves unable to establish a consistent attack against the Wild’s stifling defense.The teams will return to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday night at 8pm and be back in Minnesota for Game 6 on Tuesday night.Quenneville shuffled up the lines, moving Ben Smith to the first group with captain Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell and bringing defenseman Nick Leddy back to the lineup in a search for more speed and flow. The Wild wouldn’t let that happen.Leading the NHL in takeaways in the playoffs and allowing an average of fewer than 21 shots on goal per game in the series, the Wild improved to 5-0 at home this postseason with a 16-5 goal differential. The franchise playoff record at Xcel Energy Center was a mere 5-10 prior to this year.Sharp, coming off a 34-goal, 44-assist season, got his first goal of the series. But the Blackhawks managed just 20 shots on Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after stressing the importance of testing him more.Cooke set Fontaine up for a slap shot on a 2-on-1 rush early in the game, and the puck sailed over the glass. Fontaine buried his next chance, a bad-angle attempt from the front edge of the circle that skidded through Michal Rozsival’s legs after Cooke swiped the puck from the defenseman.After two full periods of trap-filled, tight-checking play in Game 3, the pace in this one was quick from the start. The fans resumed their sing-song jeering of Crawford’s last name from the last game, and the chants grew louder throughout the night.The buzz in the building was killed for a bit when Sharp, whose struggles prompted a move down to a new third line with Handzus and Marian Hossa, caught defenseman Clayton Stoner stuck in the offensive zone on a turnover by Niederreiter and beat Mikko Koivu to slip a wrister between Bryzgalov’s pads with 38 seconds left before the break.But the Wild roared right back in the second period with goals by Pominville and Niederreiter to bracket the score by Handzus. Bryzgalov did his part by sticking his pad out to stop Sharp’s breakaway with a thud.

NOTES—Spurgeon’s goal was just the fourth in 42 opportunities against the Blackhawks in the playoffs, the best penalty-kill percentage in the league. … The Bickell-Toews-Smith line totaled just three shots. … Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, drafted from Louisville the night before, took in his first hockey game.

Hawks listless, Wild win 4-0 to get back into series.

ST. PAUL—Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund scored goals less than 3 minutes apart early in the third period, and the Minnesota Wild recovered from a sluggish start for a 4-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Tuesday in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal series.Ilya Bryzgalov made 19 saves for his first shutout in the playoffs in eight years, and the Blackhawks had their lead whittled to 2-1 with their first loss in 2½ weeks.Zach Parise put the exclamation point on the win with a power-play goal, the first in 25 chances for the Wild over their last two playoff series against the Blackhawks. Then Granlund tacked on an empty-netter with 1:17 left.Game 4 is Friday in Minnesota,game 5 will be Sunday back at the United Center..

Bickell, Saad, Hossa and Crawford solid as Hawks beat Wild 4-1 to take 2-0 Series lead into St.Paul

Bryan Bickell amazingly again saves his best hockey for the playoffs.  (USATSI)

Bryan Bickell amazingly again saves his best hockey for the playoffs. (USATSI)

Bryan Bickell had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.Brandon Saad scored his first two goals of the postseason, and the Hawks earned their sixth consecutive win despite stretches of lackluster play in the second and third periods. Corey Crawford made 18 saves in another solid performance.Cody McCormick scored his second career playoff goal, but Minnesota missed another chance to steal home-ice advantage from the defending Stanley Cup champions.The series opener was tied at 2 in the third period before Patrick Kane scored two of the Hawks final three goals in a 5-2 victory on Friday night.Game 3 is Tuesday night in Minnesota.Clayton Stoner and Erik Haula made nice passed to set up McCormick’s first playoff goal in three years 2 minutes into the third, trimming Chicago’s lead to 2-1. Crawford then batted a potential tying shot from Charlie Coyle over the crossbar.The Blackhawks eventually regained their composure and turned up the pressure again. Bickell shot the puck off the crossbar on a break with 4:39 to go.Given a second chance, the physical forward delivered. Marian Hossa and Bickell got loose on another break, and Bickell buried his shot into the upper right corner to extend the lead to 3-1 at 17:15.Saad added an empty-net goal as the Blackhawks improved to 16-2 in home playoff games over the last two years. They are 5-0 at the United Center in this postseason.The Hawks played without forward Andrew Shaw, who was out with a leg injury. Shaw left the series opener after he was hit hard by Stoner in the first period. He appeared to favor his right side as he made his way off the ice.Shaw, who had 19 goals and 20 assists in the regular season, is expected to travel with the team to Minnesota. Wild coach Joel Quenneville said he likely would be able to play in Game 3.The Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead for the second straight game. Jonathan Toews scored a rebound goal after goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped Hossa on a breakaway in the first, and Saad sent a shot over Bryzgalov’s right shoulder right after a power play expired in the second.Haula had a great scoring opportunity on the right side of the net after Crawford lost track of the puck in the first. But Ben Smith got back, and Haula put a drive off the side of the net.The Wild failed to convert on their only power play after going 0 for 3 with the man advantage in the opener. They went 0 for 17 on the power play when they were eliminated by the Blackhawks in five games in 2013.

NOTES—Brandon Bollig was a healthy scratch after he played in every previous game this season. Kris Versteeg was back after he was scratched the previous two games, and F Jeremy Morin made his playoff debut. … Minnesota F Justin Fontaine saw his first action since the Wild’s 5-2 victory against Colorado in Game 6 of their first-round series. Stephane Veilleux was among the scratches after he played almost nine minutes in the series opener.

Kane comes up big as Hawks beat Wild 5-2 in W.Conf Semi Finals opener

Patrick Kane scored two goals in the third period, including a terrific dash through the Minnesota zone for the tiebreaking score, and the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night.Bryan Bickell also scored twice to help the Blackhawks win their fifth in a row after losing the first two games against St. Louis in the first round. Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist as the defending Stanley Cup champions made the most of two costly high-sticking penalties on Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin.Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday at 2pm.The Wild showed no sign of any fatigue just two days after their dramatic 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 of their first-round series against Colorado. Playing in the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2003, Minnesota used third-period goals from Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak to tie it at 2.Brodziak’s third goal of playoffs on a slick pass from Erik Haula silenced the sellout crowd of 21,116 with 13:04 left, but Kane then electrified the United Center once again with his 33rd playoff goal.The flashy wing carried the puck into the Minnesota zone, hesitated as teammate Patrick Sharp skated behind him, and then split Brodziak and Brodin on his way to the net. He finished the play by roofing a backhand over goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s left shoulder at 8:22.Kane then yelled “Showtime!” twice and pumped his right arm as the delirious crowd cheered wildly. But he was only getting started.The 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner picked up his fifth goal of the playoffs on a nice pass from Ben Smith, and Bickell added an empty-netter as the Champs pulled away.Minnesota went 0 for 3 on the power play in a disturbing sign after it struggled with the man advantage in its first-round playoff series against the Hawks a year ago. The Wild were unsuccessful on all 17 power-play chances when they were eliminated by the Blackhawks in five games in 2013.Bryzgalov had 17 saves in his first start since he was pulled from Minnesota’s 4-2 loss to the Avalanche in Game 2. Darcy Kuemper took over for the Wild in net until he got hurt in the third period of the final game, and Bryzgalov made one save to help the Wild advance.Kuemper is day to day with an injury, but Wild coach Mike Yeo said before Game 1 against the Blackhawks that the goalie was not in Chicago, making it unlikely that he’ll be able to play Sunday.Bryzgalov got off to a slow start, and the Hawks used the penalties on Brodin to build a 2-0 lead. Bickell tipped in Brent Seabrook’s slap shot at 14:48 of the first, and then had some fancy footwork on the Blackhawks’ second goal in the second period.Nick Leddy made a nice pass to Brandon Saad streaking through the middle of the Minnesota zone. Saad then sent a backhand pass toward the left side of the net that Bickell stepped over, leaving it for Hossa to flip into the open side of the goal at 11:21.The rest of the period belonged to Minnesota, which outshot the Hawks 17-3 in the second. Mikael Granlund had a shot go high off the left post, and Corey Crawford made nice glove saves on Wild captain Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise.Crawford finished with 30 saves after he made 35 stops in a 5-1 victory over St. Louis in Game 6 on Sunday, closing out the series for the Blackhawks.

NOTES—The Blackhawks lost Andrew Shaw to an injury in the first period. … Blackhawks F Kris Versteeg was scratched for the second straight playoff game in favor of Joakim Nordstrom. It was Nordstrom’s second career playoff game.