The first game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild had its share of drama before the puck even dropped on Tuesday. In spite of it, both teams fought hard through regulation and almost 20 minutes of overtime before the Blackhawks won the game 2-1.
During warm-ups, Wild starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured as he made a save and had to be helped to the locker room. That left backup Josh Harding as the new starter with no backup of his own. Harding had not been in net since February, when he allowed two goals on four shots in seven minutes in the Wild’s game against the Blackhawks. Since then, he’d battled the effects of multiple sclerosis and had played on a rehab assignment with the Wild’s AHL team in Houston until the last week of the regular season.
Harding wasn’t rattled by the sudden change. In fact, he did what Backstrom would have, stopping 27 shots and making a huge glove save on Patrick Sharp. Patrick Kane had two incredible chances as well, with one that surely would’ve been netted and the other on a breakaway. Harding stopped both of those and made it look easy.
But the goaltending wasn’t all about Harding. Corey Crawford also did his part, although he had a shaky start. Cal Clutterbuck fired a shot from the circle early in the first period, and the soft shot easily went past Crawford. But just when everyone thought they’d seen the old Crawford, he stepped up and made a total of 37 saves, with two in rapid succession on Kyle Brodziak and another on a wraparound attempt by Jason Zucker.
It’s unclear if Backstrom will be back for Game 2. If he’s unable to play, the Wild will have to call up Darcy Kuemper from the Houston Aeros, who are currently playing the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL playoffs.