CHICAGO (AP) — Patrick Sharp provided the big finish after Michael Frolik stepped up during a strong start. Corey Crawford was right there when the defense collapsed.
No playoff jitters this time. Instead, an impressive performance for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sharp and Frolik had two goals apiece, Crawford made 26 saves and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday night in Game 2 of their first-round series.
“If we’re moving our feet, we’re playing our team game,” Sharp said. “The goals are going to come whenever they come, but if we’re playing Blackhawks hockey, we’ll be better off.”
Patrick Kane added two assists as Chicago peppered Minnesota goalie Josh Harding after an uneven performance in Game 1 on Tuesday night. Bryan Bickell added an empty-net score to his overtime goal in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory in the playoff opener.
Game 3 is Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.
“It’s a good start,” Frolik said. “Everybody knows we can still be better. We try to improve every game. It’s going to be tough in Minny and we have to be ready for it.”
Devin Setoguchi and Marco Scandella scored for the Wild, who are making their first postseason appearance in five years. Harding, once again subbing for Niklas Backstrom, made 43 saves.
“There was clearly another level to their game tonight and I’d say there’s at least another level to ours that was unfortunately in the wrong direction,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said.
Setoguchi gave the Wild a spark when he teamed with Matt Cullen for a beautiful 2-on-1 rush at end of the second period. Cullen passed across the ice to Setoguchi, who beat Crawford into the upper right corner to trim Chicago’s lead to 2-1.
But the Blackhawks turned up the pressure in the third period, and Sharp stuffed one in from the right side of the net to restore the two-goal advantage. Kane then made a slick pass to set up Sharp’s 25th career playoff goal, putting the game away with six minutes left.
“For us, we’ve got to keep shooting the puck, crash the net, and usually when you do that, plays will open up,” Kane said.
It was one sweet night for Sharp, who missed much of the season with a shoulder injury. He had only six goals and 14 assists in 28 games while Chicago rolled to the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the league this season.
The Blackhawks improved to 27-0-3 with the 31-year-old forward in the lineup.
“I thought he had a good game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He had a big hit early in the game. That line was effective.”
Minnesota squeaked into the playoffs with a victory over Colorado in its final game. But the Blackhawks got off to a slow start in Game 1 and the Wild came close to stealing home-ice advantage.
No such problems this time for Chicago.
While chalking up their slow first period in the playoff opener to nerves, the Blackhawks focused on a better beginning to Game 2 and delivered.
“That’s something we talked about,” Quenneville said. “Very disappointing the other night. We were more on the receiving end. They scored first and we watched a little bit. We didn’t dictate how the game should be played as far as how fast we wanted it. Tonight, we were much more effective.”
Chicago pressured Harding early on and finished with 17 shots in the first period, compared to seven for Minnesota. And even with all that pressure, the Blackhawks needed a couple of fortunate caroms to build a 2-0 lead.
Andrew Shaw’s slap shot deflected off Justin Falk and went underneath fellow Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert to Frolik, who flipped it into the upper left corner to put Chicago in front with 11:26 left in the first period. Frolik was in the right place at the right time again in the second, sending Duncan Keith’s deflected pass through Harding’s legs just 49 seconds into the period.
It was the first short-handed goal allowed by the Wild all season and lifted Frolik to six goals in 13 career playoff games.
“The first one was a pretty lucky bounce,” he said. “I just tried to go to the net and the puck came to me. The second goal, it came to me again. I just shot it there.”
Shaw also had two assists for Chicago, which is 19-2 in playoff series when winning the first two games. Crawford turned away repeated attempts by Zach Parise during one stout stretch with Minnesota on a power play in the second period.
The Wild played without Backstrom and forward Jason Pominville for the second straight game, and defenseman Clayton Stoner also was sidelined by an injury. The return of those players could be key to Minnesota staying in the series.
“You just have to find a way to win,” said Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last summer, but refuses to talk about the condition. “It doesn’t matter how many shots they get, how much zone time they get, how much power play, anything, it doesn’t matter. It’s playoff time and we have to find a way to win.”
NOTES: Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since a 3-2 victory at Colorado on April 14, 2008. The Wild lost the last three games of that quarterfinal series, and then went five years without a postseason appearance before they lost to the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. … Frolik’s short-handed goal was the first for the Blackhawks in the playoffs since Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals against Vancouver.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap