The Phoenix Coyotes aren't being kind to my heart...or any of their fans' hearts. For the third time in four games against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Desert Dogs took a one goal lead into the final 90 seconds before allowing the tying goal. Thankfully, as in game one, the Coyotes rallied in overtime, survived a few opportunities from Chicago and then Mikkel Boedker took a chip from Boyd Gordon, rushed up ice, and pushed one past Corey Crawford for the second straight game, to give the Coyotes a 3-2 victory in Game 4, and a 3-1 lead in the series.
For the first forty minutes of tonight's game, Chicago carried most of the play. The Coyotes were outshot 23-10 with Mike Smith making some spectacular saves to keep the game scoreless. Paul Bissonnette got into a scrap with Brandon Bollig about 5 minutes into the game, and for some unknown reason his fight strap was not properly tied down and he earned a game misconduct. It just had the feeling of one of those games that the Coyotes weren't going to have enough, but Mike Smith might just steal it.
About 7 minutes into the third, it looked like it might actually come to pass. Shane Doan made a great individual effort stealing the puck from Johnny Oduya and firing a pass to a wide open Ray Whitney whose one timer was saved by Corey Crawford. However, the rebound came right out in front to Doan, who spun around and fired it into the open part of the net. Just 40 seconds later, Taylor Pyatt scored his second of the post season taking a feed from Antoine Vermette behind the net and putting it past Crawford to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
It was shortlived, as a Brendan Morrison shot deflected off of Rostislav Klesla's stick and over Smith's glove to cut the lead to 2-1. The team exchanged power plays down the stretch and finally, as in the first two games of the series, the Coyotes were caught chasing the puck in their own end and unable to clear it up the ice. A move from David Bolland into the middle led to a backhand shot that Smith blocked with his shoulder but could not track the rebound that sat just to his right in the crease. Michael Frolik, playing due to the suspension of Andrew Shaw, scored his second goal in as many games, tapping the puck into the open net to knot the game at 2.
On the game winning goal, the Coyotes just executed a nice play from Keith Yandle to Gordon to Boedker, chipping the puck up the ice, and Boedker forced his way past Nick Leddy and pushed it past Crawford for the game winner.
Five For Winning
1. Score first. The Coyotes have yet to score first against the Blackhawks during this playoff series which is allowing Chicago to set the pace of the game. The Yotes need to break this trend, take an early lead and maintain it. Its time we had hockey the easy way. The Coyotes would score first...and second. Unfortunately, they were unable to maintain it.
2. Play 20 minute periods and a 60 minute game. Another problem the Yotes have had is that they allow late goals. Last game it was during the last minute of the first period, the first two games it was the last minute of the third period. It wasn't last minute but it was last 90 seconds and just after Chicago had pulled their netminder again.
3. Physical play. The Coyotes have been good at this, they have played very physical games that can ruin the Blackhawks momentum and keep them in the game. That being said they need to keep it clean. Thought the Coyotes really took it to Chicago physically, but didn't see anything that was anywhere near the line of a questionable hit.
4. Special teams. The penalty kill has been pretty good during the last few games, only allowing one goal during the series so far. The power play needs to step it up though and capitalize on the opportunities that Chicago gives them when they take penalties. PK continued to get the job done; power play couldn't convert despite some better puck possession than we've seen at times.
5. Finish in regulation. Our hearts can't take more overtime. Plus a contest of scoring first doesn't really favor us. Yeah, no.
1. Mikkel Boedker - back to back game winners in OT...unreal; had a strong game in all facets.
2. Taylor Pyatt - despite the lack of production during the regular season, really picked his game up the last month. Has been one of the best Coyotes this series.
3a. Shane Doan - terrific individual effort to create and score the first Coyotes goal.
3b. Mike Smith - there were fewer shots tonight (only 32), but Smith did everything he needed to do to get this win.
Coyotes are back in Glendale with a chance to close out the series on Saturday night at 7. Make no mistake, Chicago will not roll over and die in this one, but the Coyotes have shown an ability to weather the pressure from the Hawks and respond with timely goals...even if they have those last minute lapses. The game is already sold out and it should be an electric atmosphere as the Coyotes take their first shot at winning their first playoff series in Phoenix.
For the Chicago perspective, check out Second City Hockey.