How about that game? Huh? Who's the biggest surprise team of the year? If you answered anything other than "The Coyotes" you need to have your head examined. Once again the Coyotes just found a way to win a game that they easily could have lost to the Blackhawks, or just given up in at several points. It wasn't pretty and it took overtime once again, but the two points are ours.
It was certainly all Blackhawks in terms of the scoring at least, for the first half of the game. While the Coyotes were generating more chances Antii Niemi was just standing on his head for the the first half. Troy Brouwer would open the scoring with a wrister from the slot on a Johnathan Toews pass from behind the net. Not a ton Bryzgalov could do as there was just traffic in front that made the goal possible. Early in the second Patrick Kane put another goal up on the Blackhawks power play with Matthew Lombardi in the box. The announcers could hardly announce the penalty before he put a one timer past Ilya. Marian Hossa made a beautiful cross ice pass and Byrz just couldn't cross fast enough.
It looked like it was going to be all Hawks all night at that point, but the Coyotes weren't giving up. Wojtek Wolski put in a rebound on a Shane Doan shot to get the Coyotes on the board. Wolski actually started the play when he stick handled to the front and dished to Doan. Doan didn't finish it, but Wolski did. The Hawks were none to pleased with it though and Ben Eager was a jerk. After taking a rare spearing call in the first he slashed Radim Vrbata after the goal and got sent off again. They'd go into the locker room at the end of the second down 2-1.
The Coyotes would tie things up early in the third with a power play goal from the Desert Ninja Lee Stempniak who just won't stop scoring. The goal was credited to Adrian Aucoin at first, the announce team thought Martin Hanzal might have deflected it, but it was actually Stempniak that got the blast from Aucoin to go in. Tied 2-2 the game looked like it was going the Coyotes way, but the Blackhawks just wouldn't die. Andrew Ladd but a weak slapshot from just inside the blueline past Ilya Bryzgalov who was just kicking himself as it was only 1:22 after the Coyotes tied it. It didn't end there though. Just another minute later Patrick Sharp took a Marion Hossa pass and wristed it over Bryzgalov's stick side. just a bang bang play that looked like it was going to the other side but just never went. It seemed like everything was just going downhill. Bryz was giving up softies, back to back goals and down 2 yet again...
But nothing was over. The Coyotes regrouped and just like Bryzgalov had bailed them out of subpar games before the guys decided it was time to bail Bryz out of a rough one. Lee Stempniak camped out in front, which I wish the other guys would learn from, and got a nice pass from Wojtek Wolski that he lifted right over the right pad of Niemi. While the backhand and stick handling have paid off too, just camping him in open space in front seems to just be money. He's now up to 9G and 2A in 8 games, just sick numbers. With still 13+ minutes to play though the pace picked up on both sides. It seemed like the teams were just trading scoring chances, but it was the Coyotes that cashed in. Adrian Aucoin got a pass from Matthew Lombardi as he streaked in from the blueline and just rocketed it past for his 8th of the year. "The Closer" just keeps on surprising everyone with his offence and not just his defensive skills.
Tied 4-4 both teams had chances before the end of regulation, but just couldn't bury anything. Once again the Coyotes headed to overtime where they've just been stellar. Matthew Lombardi had a chance to win it when he was dragged down on a breakaway just over a minute in. Lombardi was covered in snow and looked a little shaken, but went out to take the shot anyways. He just couldn't close the deal as Niemi was patient and didn't drop until the last second. It looked like the Coyotes had it won again with less than a minute remaining. Vernon Fiddler found the open side of the net and put the puck in, but it was waived off as he kicked the puck in, or so ruled the refs. Even in the last minute of OT the two squads got chances with the COyotes shooting one right through the paint and the Blackhawks pressing. No one could decide it though so we went to the shootout.
Ilya Bryzgalov had completely blocked out the earlier soft stuff because he came up big not allowing a single Blackhawks to score. The Coyotes finally figured out that Niemi was dropping really early on shots as he had stuffed Wolski and Lauri Korpikoski. Radim Vrbata though used his patented rising backhander to pop the water bottle for the eventual game winner.
With the win the Coyotes are now just one point behind the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead while the extra point got Chicago the Western Conference lead. The Coyotes immediately boarded a flight for Dallas after the game as they'll play tomorrow afternoon.