Photo courtesy Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
What a crazy series. Blown leads, dirty hits, overtime magic, coaches getting fined. Yes it is the playoffs. And the Chicago Blackhawks are dangerously close of getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs after another overtime loss. For the second straight game, Mikkel Boedker scored the overtime winner just 2:15 in as the Phoenix Coyotes edged the Blackhawks 3-2 and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
With all the talk coming in about the devastating hit Raffi Torres laid out on Marian Hossa, both teams had to fight the urge of escalating the bad blood. Torres is suspended indefinitely and will have an in-person hearing with Brendan Shanahan on Friday to discuss further punishment.
The Blackhawks came out of the gate flying, dominating the first period. But Coyotes goalie Mike Smith was terrific making 11 saves and keeping the desert dogs in the game. The second period saw more of the same as the Blackhawks continued to press and dictate the action. But Smith held firm with some help from solid work by his defenceman. Keith Yandle has been superb for the Coyotes this series and should get more attention than he does.
The third period saw the pace slow, which is to the Coyotes liking. Seven minutes into the third, Johnny Oduya was stripped of the puck by Shane Doan in the Blackhawks zone. Doan feathered a pass to Ray Whitney, who then one-timed it on goal. Corey Crawford made the save but Doan got to the rebound and fired it past Crawford for the first goal of the game. The Coyotes extended their lead 44 seconds later as Taylor Pyatt converted an Antoine Vermette pass into a 2 goal lead for Phoenix.
The game looked like it was over, but the Blackhawks refused to go away. Brendan Morrison, playing his first game of the series fired home a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle over the glove hand of Smith, to pull the Blackhawks within one. Then the Blackhawks late game heroics continued as Michael Frolik flipped home a loose puck past a fallen Smith with 1:26 left in the period to force overtime.
However the Coyotes used the intermission to regroup, and went to work. The Blackhawks were caught pinching deep inside Phoenix territory and it burned them. Boedker raced past Nick Leddy, went in alone, and jammed the puck past Crawford for the winner.
The win gives the Coyotes a chance to wrap up their first series win since 1987 at home on Saturday night. However history dictates a 3-1 lead isn’t that secure with this franchise. The Coyotes/Jets have blown 3-1 leads three times in their history. If the Coyotes are to win this series, they will have to overcome this psychological hurdle.
For the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford has to be better in net. Crawford gave up 3 goals on just 19 shots and was shaky in both games in Chicago. If Crawford doesn’t step up his game, the Blackhawks will be on the golf course on Monday.
1. Mikkel Boedker
2. Mike Smith
3. Michael Frolik