CHICAGO | The Blackhawks waited four playoff seasons and one severe concussion for Marian Hossa to be the load that opponents could not bear.
Amassing his first postseason two-goal performance, best-paid Hawk Hossa helped put away the Minnesota Wild 5-1 on Thursday night, powering his team into the Western Conference semifinals. The Hawks finally advanced beyond the quarterfinals after two consecutive first-round exits since their 2010 Stanley Cup championship.
The Hawks will play either the San Jose Sharks or blood rival Detroit Red Wings in the next round, which could start as early as Tuesday at the United Center.
They withstood the Wild’s attempts to get physical and throw the Hawks off their skills game.
“One thing we learned was to settle down when teams come after us,” said goalie Corey Crawford, who continued his great regular season by not allowing more than two goals in regulation in any game.
“Not get into that scrappy game. We can play physical. We can throw body checks. But just not let teams get after us.”
Despite Hossa’s big night to bring his quarterfinals total to three goals, he did not end up the big scorer in the five-game Wild triumph. Forward Patrick Sharp nailed his fifth goal of the series on a power-play score six minutes into the third period.
In the corner late in the first period, the still-scoreless Jonathan Toews sent a crisp pass to a prowling Hossa. He powered a 25-foot wrist shot past Wild goalie Josh Harding for the game’s first score.
Hossa did not wait all that long to strike again. Midway through the second period, Hossa beat Harding again on a short backhander, assisted by Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, to make it 3-0.
“It definitely helps when you score goals,” Hossa said. “You feel like you get extra energy in you. You feel a lot better than getting down offensively and pressing.
“If the goals don’t come, I try to contribute other ways. It’s nice to put my name on the scoring sheet and help the team offensively. But I try to play the same way I did the whole season – both ways.”
Hossa consigned to bad memories the illegal, concussion-causing hit by the Phoenix Coyotes’ Raffi Torres that knocked him out of last year’s quarterfinals.
Kruger broke through early in the second period shortly before Hossa’s second goal. Taking a pass from fellow fourth-liner and penalty-killing partner Michael Frolik near the boards, Kruger skated around the back of the Wild goal with the puck. Reaching the other side of the net, he quickly slipped a shot past Harding on the wrap-around play.
Kruger thus gained some glory to join Frolik, who scored two in Game 2. Both players had spearheaded the Hawks’ pristine penalty kill, which extended its record to 17-for-17 against the Wild.
Third-line center Andrew Shaw scored his first playoff goal this season in a putback of a rebound off the boards to make it 4-1 in the second.
Crawford made 21 saves.