The Minnesota Wild was a team searching for answers Tuesday night.
It's bad enough that the Wild is down 3-1 against the best team in the NHL after a 3-0 loss to the Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. Now they face not only the daunting task of survival in Game 5 at the United Center on Thursday night, but the perplexing reality that they were beaten at their own game.
Instead of responding to a Game 3 pounding by pounding back (the Wild outhit the Hawks 20-10), the Blackhawks mucked it up, blocking 26 Wild shots in front of Corey Crawford to shut out the Wild on six power plays and render the already struggling Wild offense impotent.
''It looks like we had a lot of time. It looks like we had a lot of room. But they did a good job of getting in the shooting lanes,'' lamented Wild star Zach Parise, who has one goal in the series and is a minus-6 through four games after a minus-2 on Tuesday night.
How do you solve that strategy?
''That's what we'll find out,'' Parise said.
Maybe they will and maybe they won't. While the Wild players figure to respond with a stellar effort in a desperation situation, by now it's got to be in the back of their heads that the Blackhawks have several trump cards still left to play. When you're down 3-1 and Jonathan Toews (zero points) hasn't even cleared his throat, it can always get worse.
''They're playing good hockey,'' Parise said. ''Especially their PK [penalty kill], that was the difference. We just have to find a way, learn from this and try to find the keys to break their defense.''
Wild captain Mikko Koivu is equally flummoxed by the Hawks. He has no points and is a minus-five for the series.
''We have to find a way. They're playing good,'' Koivu said. ''There's no excuse for us. We have to find a way to break that [shot-blocking defense] down and get that puck to the net when we get that many chances.''
Wild coach Mike Yeo knows he needs his two top offensive stars to produce for his team to have a chance. They were a combined minus-four in Game 4.
''Probably wasn't the greatest of nights,'' Yeo said. ''But I'll say this: If you know them the way I do, you'd be really excited to watch them play the next game.''