The Coyotes returned to Chicago for the first time since the 6-1 debacle on January 20th. That game was an embarrassment for all involved. Tonight's game not only wasn't embarrassing, it may have been the Desert Dogs best performance all year. And it had some unbelievable drama to boot.
Mike Smith made 36 saves, including the potential save of the year, and Antoine Vermette scored the game winning goal in the shootout to give the Coyotes the 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night.
The first period began much like the last game did, with Chicago jumping all over Arizona. The Hawks controlled play throughout the period, but struggled to complete the last pass they need to make chances happen and the Coyote defense was also much tighter than the previous meeting.
Michael Stone took the period's only penalty when his stick rode up on Dan Carcillo, who proceeded to grab it and bang it off his chin. The Coyotes killed the advantage effectively and actually earned the best scoring chance out of it courtesy of David Moss. Duncan Keith recovered well and forced Moss to his backhand, which Antti Raanta was able to steer aside.
The second period featured much better hockey than the opening 20 minutes did. One thing that became clear from the beginning of the second was that Arizona had no answer for the line combination of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad. They dominated play when they were on the ice.
The score stayed tied at zeroes through the halfway point of the game until the Chicago top unit finally broke through. Saad beat Oliver Ekman-Larrson behind the net and took Zbynek Michalek off the puck. Toews picked up the loose change and found Hossa all alone in front of the net. Hossa tapped the puck home to give the Hawks the 1-0 lead at 12:44.
Things probably stay that way if not for the mouth of Patrick Kane. The NHL's leading scorer was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for yapping at an official, only his second penalty on the season. The Coyotes would make him pay as Keith Yandle unleashed a shot from just below the right point that Shane Doan redirected past Annti Raanta to tie things up at 17:23 of the second. The Coyotes would go into the second intermission with the score knotted.
The third period would continue the back and forth affair, and somehow the Coyotes would find themselves with a lead. At 3:59, OEL took a shot from the left point that Antoine Vermette would redirect from the high slot. The puck went high past Raanta, who had no chance, to make the score 2-1.
The Coyotes played strong defense for much of the third, especially once they took the lead, but one mistake was all it took for Chicago to capitalize. Toews would skate behind Ekman-Larsson and pick his pocket deep in the Coyote zone. He found Hossa in the high slot. Hossa got a shot off at 12:18 that deflected off of Michalek's leg as he was kneeling to block it and it skipped between Mike Smith's pads to tie things at two. Regulation would not solve anything, so the game went into overtime.
And what an overtime it was. Martin Erat was called for hooking at 1:54 of the extra frame and Chicago went on a 4 on 3 power play at a critical moment. The Coyotes penalty killers did a fantastic job of pressuring the Blackhawks all night and even more so on the OT disadvantage. After successfully killing the penalty, it looked like the game would settle down before Keith Yandle led a 2 on 1 break for Arizona in the final 30 seconds.
Yandle crossed the blueline but his pass was blocked off by Niklas Hjalmarsson. Andrew Shaw then got careless with the puck and, in a moment of quiet irony for Coyote fans, turned it over to Yandle who found himself one on one with Raanta. Raanta made the first save and got the rebound as well. Yandle tried to throw a third chance in off a bank shot, but the Blackhawks cleared the front and the zone. That should have been enough excitement for one OT but there was more wackiness to come.
Shaw would get a chance to redeem himself when he got the puck just above the goal line and took a shot on net. The puck hit Smith's stick and popped in the air before bouncing in the crease and rolling along the goal line. Smith scrambled back to swipe the puck off the line, and the referee determined it did not completely cross the line. The puck rolled out to the face off circle where Saad got it and shot the puck right off the crossbar. The OT ended and after video review upheld the call of no goal (you be the judge) on Shaw's shot, it went to a shootout.
Lucas Lessio started it off and used the exact same move he used against Carolina. Instead of hitting the post, Lessio actually found the back of the net this time. Toews hit the post before Raanta stopped OEL. Patrick Kane slowed things down, doing to Mike Smith what he's done to so many goaltenders to tie the shootout. Then, Vermette went forehand-backhand five hole on Raanta, putting pressure on Patrick Sharp to score for Chicago. Smith made a sprawling pad save and the Coyotes somehow, someway won this hockey game.
Playoffs or not, win or not, the Coyotes put on a heck of performance tonight and people need to get behind this team. They haven't quit playing. far from it.
- For Chicago's perspective, check out Second City Hockey.
- Good night for special teamsl the Coyotes power play went 1 for 2 and the penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4.
- Chicago outshot Arizona 38-29 and won the face off battle 43-33.
- Vermette's goal was his first since January 17th against Minnesota, a span of nine games.
- Jonathan Toews had both assists for the Hawks tonight. He, Hossa and Saad combined for 11 shots on goal.
- Lucas Lessio was the only Coyote to not play at least 10 minutes; he played 9:53 and only received one shift in the third period.
- OEL had two assists, but was victimized on both goals by lazy play. That can't be forgotten.
- Keith Yandle had an assist to extend his point streak to seven games and his league lead in assists among defensemen to 35.
Our Three Stars of the Game
- Mike Smith. Stopped 36 of 38 shots and somehow kept the puck from crossing the line at the end of OT. Maybe.
- Marian Hossa. Scored both Chicago goals and the last four goals for the Hawks going back to yesterday's game. He was a menace all night long.
- Brandon Saad. Didn't get any points, but he was great all night as well and was the man directly responsible for setting up the first Chicago goal.
The Coyotes will be right back at it tomorrow night against the St. Louis Blues. The game will start at 6 PM Arizona time.