Every night during the playoffs, we will wrap up all the exciting action and tell you what you need to know about the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs. Welcome to What You Need To Know.
Blackhawks win 2-1 | CHI leads series 3-2 | Game 6 Tue.
Chicago Blackhawks: As has often been the case in this series, it wasn't necessarily the prettiest game, but the Blackhawks found a way to fight through the often-stout defense of the Minnesota Wild to create more of a net-front presence. That play in front of the net helped the Blackhawks score their two goals, with Bryan Bickell scoring off a deflection and Jonathan Toews poking home a loose puck. This team still doesn't look close to how it did over its last four games in their first-round series against the Blues or last year's championship squad, but they were rewarded for owning the puck. Even when it didn't seem like they were getting many quality chances, the defending champs looked much stronger than they did in Games 3 and 4. To stop the bleeding after dropping both games on the road is huge. The Xcel Energy Center has been one of the toughest buildings to play in these playoffs, but to have an opportunity to close out the series could make the Blackhawks a tad more dangerous.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild played solid enough defense in Game 5, but their offensive game failed them, it seemed. There weren't nearly the number of quality chances the Wild have enjoyed on their home ice this year. If they can find whatever magic it is they have at the Xcel Energy Center and bring it on the road with them, they might have some more success in this series. Once again, they hung with the Blackhawks, but they didn't assert themselves enough to take the game over at any point really. The Wild may have actually been too conservative with their early lead and relied too heavily on their ability to defend. That can work some nights, but the Wild never established possession consistently enough to push back when they needed to. Minnesota is going to need more out of their top offensive players as they teeter on the brink of elimination heading into Game 6.
Play of the Game: Erik Haula's end-to-end rush and rather unique finish on this play offered the game's best goal. The explosiveness with which he exploits the open ice right down to the second effort to make sure that puck got in the net in the most unusual way makes this Game 5's most memorable play even if it came in a losing effort.
Player of the Game: Jonathan Toews gets the nod not only for scoring the game-winning goal, but for being a possession machine. According to ExtraSkater.com, the Blackhawks generated 19 shot attempts to the Wild's six with Toews on the at five-on-five. That's dominant. He won 60 percent of his faceoffs and the Blackhawks were at their deadliest with the captain on the ice. He made a great effort at the net-front to score the goal that gave Chicago the lead for good with his fifth postseason goal and he was a major factor at both ends of the ice. With the series tied, the Blackhawks got a tremendous performance from their best player. Most teams are going to have success when that is the case.
Turning Point: When the puck dropped for the second period, the Blackhawks came out with a vegeance. Trailing 1-0, they outshot the Wild 15-6 and were owning the puck. Good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov was all that protected the Wild from getting blown out of the water. Bryan Bickell's goal off a deflection tied the game in the middle of the period and things evened out a bit. That early push in the second period from the Blackhawks looked like the first time they really had control of a game themselves over their last three contests.
GIF of the Game: As I've tended to do a bit more often this postseason than I had planned, I'm swapping the GIF for a good old-fashioned still photo. Sometimes they're just a bit better. Here's a look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in his soccer-dad-chic garb cheering the Blackhawks' game-tying goal by Bryan Bickell. Gotta love politicians when they get into their "man-of-the-people" mode. Unbuttoned denim over a tucked-in T-shirt is a bold choice, Mr. Mayor.
Rangers win 3-1 | Series Tied 3-3| Game 7 Tues.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The slow start didn't help the Penguins cause as they found themselves in an early 2-0 hole. The only goal they managed to score was a rather fluky one. The interesting thing about this game was that the Penguins actually got the better of the Rangers in the possession battle, but it didn't always look like it as they failed to generate many quality chances. The frustration was written all over the faces and actions of the Penguins throughout the game. They were off their game and against a goalie as good as Henrik Lundqvist, that doesn't bode well for success. The Penguins have been an enigma the last few postseasons and their inability to close out the Rangers before the series went to a Game 7 is going to weigh heavily on their minds leading up to the decisive contest on Tuesday.
New York Rangers: The jump the Rangers had at the beginning of this game was undeniable. They were all over the Penguins and got out to an early two-goal lead. If not for a wacky goal at the end of the first, it would have been essentially a flawless period from the Blueshirts. They kept the pressure on and though the Penguins were able to gain more of a foothold in the game, the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist really didn't let them back into it. Perhaps it was the emotions of the day with Martin St. Louis playing with a heavy heart, but the effort level out of the Rangers was as good as we've seen this postseason. If they can find a way to carry that intensity into Game 7, they've got a chance to complete a rather improbable comeback.
Play of the Game: None of the goals were particularly scored in a pretty fashion in this game, but even if any were, none of them would have been as memorable as Martin St. Louis opening the game's scoring after a Derek Stepan rebound deflected off his leg and in. Playing under the grief of losing his mother three days prior, the emotions came pouring out as he celebrated that goal. I'm sure St. Louis has special plans for that puck as he picked it up after scoring the goal. What a moment in this series and what a moment for St. Louis and his family on what is undoubtedly a difficult Mother's Day.
Player of the Game: Can it be anyone else? Martin St. Louis playing with a heavy heart was a factor all game long. He scored the game's first goal and that really seemed to set the emotional tone for the rest of the period and much of the game. St. Louis, dealing with the loss of his mother just three days prior, has always had a big heart on the ice, but he took that to a whole new level in Game 6. The way he played under the circumstances had to give the Rangers such a boost and another reason to win the game beyond staving off elimination. You also can't discount what Henrik Lundqvist did. He made 36 saves to shut the door and ensure the early lead was enough for his team to win. But this was clearly Marty's night.
Turning Point: The way the Rangers came out for the opening 10 minutes of the game was New York at its most dominant. They came at the Penguins in waves, scored two early goals and built enough of a lead to hold on to for the rest of the game.
GIF of the Game: At the moment this happened, it seemed like it could be a long day for the Rangers. On the first shift of the game, Derek Stepan took advantage of a bad pinch by Paul Martin. He raced into the Penguins' zone and tried to collect the puck off the boards. Unfortunately for him, the referee was in the way. Stepan may have had a mini-breakaway, but instead he got clipped by the ref and fell to the ice, as did the referee. Considering the Rangers were facing elimination, it felt like that chance getting thwarted could have loomed rather large in the game. Lucky for all involved, it didn't. GIF via @myregularface: