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The Phoenix Coyotes gave their fans a bit of a scare tonight by giving up a game tying goal to the Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook with only 14 seconds remaining in regulation. But Martin Hanzal deflected an Adrian Aucoin shot past Corey Crawford 9:29 into the first overtime period and the Phoenix Coyotes jump out to a 1-0 lead in the series.
Jonathan Toews, showing almost no sign that he hasn't played a game since late February, scored on his second shift to open the scoring in the game. As with every goal except the game winner it came after an extended shift and multiple failed clears by the defensive team. Rather than fold like they did last year in the playoffs after surrendering an opening goal, the Coyotes kicked things up another notch in the second and got the tying goal from Taylor Pyatt off of a great feed from Daymond Langkow behind the net. About 10 minutes later, the Coyotes would take their first lead of the game when Raffi Torres found Antoine Vermette jumping into the play on a rush and Vermette ripped a scorcher past Crawford.
Mike Smith was playing like a Vezina candidate, turning aside 43 shots on the evening. Unfortunately, he just couldn't find the puck after Patrick Kane's shot on net hit something in front and deflected right to Seabrook alone at the back door.
Bullet Point Notes:
- On the first Coyotes goal, replays showed that the referees might have missed a too many men on the ice penalty. I remember thinking initially that it looked like the Coyotes might have jumped early on a change to hold the zone, but that's not an easy call and this wasn't a game where the refs were truly egregious in any direction. I thought they actually did a fairly good job of letting the teams play, with the exception of the hooking call on Whitney which seemed a bit weak.
- The Coyotes lost top goal scorer Radim Vrbata on his second shift after a big hit from Andrew Shaw. In his post game presser, Tippett said Vrby was "day-to-day" but admitted that he didn't have a full report and wasn't even sure which half of Vrbata might be hurt.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a great game for the Coyotes. He might not have found the score sheet, but he played HUGE minutes, was really getting under the skin of some of the Hawks players and jumped into a few rushes brilliantly.
Five For Winning Game 1:
1. Score First. The Coyotes are just not the same team when they have a lead and when they are chasing a game. They've shown that they can play the comeback game terrifically, but it's not what they want to do. Didn't happen, but Coyotes didn't panic and kept playing their game.
2. Limit the Shots. The Hawks have peppered Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera with a ton of shots in each game. The Coyotes played two strong puck possession games to end the season - they need to keep building on that. No, 45 shots allows, even if I agree with Coach Tippett that there were a lot from outside the scoring areas. Smith was tested plenty though.
3. Win the Special Teams Battle. Simply put, don't let the Hawks power play unit find any success and take advantage of the opportunities that you get. Coyotes weren't exactly getting a lot of calls from the officials, but they did fail to convert on a 5-on-3 despite some good efforts. Although they gave up the empty net goal in a quasi-power play situation, the PK was excellent for the Coyotes.
4. Ignore the Distractions. It will be interesting to see if there are more "rumors" that mysteriously start swirling about deadlines and moves and everything else tomorrow. The good news, Mike Smith is not an Ilya Bryzgalov head case and even if anything is thrown out there it should stay far away from the performance on the ice. Team started the game and OT a bit flat, but they recovered well both times and fought through for the victory.
5. Play Off the Crowd. It's going to be loud, it's going to be crazy and it's going to be white. The Coyotes need to feed off the energy, jump off to a rocking start and never look back. They are well rested and there's no excuses now - leave it all on the ice! Without a doubt - Coyotes were credited with 48 hits for the game and definitely fed off the crowd's energy. Great atmosphere in the building.
1. Martin Hanzal - gets the OT winner, has to match up against the Toews or Kruger line for the entire night, is killing penalties. Just a beast out there.
2. Mike Smith - another exceptional performance. He's making these seem almost too routine and we are spoiled.
3a. Antoine Vermette - scored a beauty on the blast, but also was playing physical all game and creating a lot of chances.
3b. Mikkel Boedker - doesn't show up on the score sheet at all, except as a +1 for being on the ice for the game winner, but I thought Boedker did a great job shuffling between lines and creating a lot of havoc with his speed.
We're right back at it on Saturday night in Glendale for Game 2 of the series. For the Chicago perspective, check out Second City Hockey.