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Smith stands tall in Coyotes OT win over Blackhawks
For a city that apparently doesn't care about the game of hockey and their NHL team, the city of Glendale sure knows how to bring electricity to a building come playoff time. The Phoenix Coyotes used that energy and a strong performance from Mike Smith, to edge the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in an overtime thriller.
Edmonton - April 13, 2012 - For a city that apparently doesn't care about the game of hockey and their NHL team, the city of Glendale sure knows how to bring electricity to a building come playoff time. With the majority of their fans all decked in white, following this franchises long playoff tradition of the "White Out" that dates back to their days as the Winnipeg Jets, the Phoenix Coyotes used that energy and a strong performance from Mike Smith, to edge the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in an overtime thriller. Martin Hanzal deflected home the winner at the 9:29 mark of the first overtime session and Smith did the rest, stopping forty-three of the forty-five shots he faced.
Oddly enough, the Phoenix netminder got off to a shaky start, allowing an awful goal to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, from a sharp angle, just four minutes in. To the Coyotes credit, they seemed unfazed by their star goaltender's blunder and simply kept plugging away and continued playing their game. They were almost rewarded for their hard work late in the period but Corey Crawford absolutely stoned Hanzal at the doorstep, with a beautiful cross crease save with only seconds left in the opening stanza.
Phoenix's hard work finally would pay off, when Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson made a brutal play behind his own net, which led directly to Taylor Pyatt's tying goal. With the Hawks pinned deep in their own zone, Hjalmarsson gained control of the puck just to the right of Crawford and tried sending a bounce pass off the end boards to his partner Sean O'Donnell. Problem being, O'Donnell had lost his stick earlier and the pass went directly to Daymond Langow, who quickly found Pyatt, who beat a startled Crawford to put this one back on level terms.
That goal seemed to give the Coyotes life, as they kept coming and would take their first lead of the night with just under three minutes to go in the middle frame. Raffi Torres found a trailing Antoine Vermette with a perfect feed on a Phoenix odd man rush, that the former Ottawa Senator and Columbus Blue Jacket centre simply teed up and hammered past Crawford, to give the home side the lead heading into the intermission.
While it looked as though the Coyotes would make that lead stand, the Blackhawks had other ideas. After controlling the puck in the Phoenix zone for much of the final minute and with Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker, Chicago found the equalizer thanks to a well timed pinch from defenceman Brent Seabrook. With the visitors buzzing and time running out, Patrick Kane sent a laser towards the net that cleanly beat Smith but caught iron and somehow stayed out. Fortunately for the Hawks, Seabrook had pinched all the way down to the Phoenix goal, awaiting a possible loose puck. Good thing that he did, as Kane's shot ricocheted off the post and right to the unmarked blueliner, who buried the puck into the wide open cage, with just under fifteen seconds to play and send this one into overtime.
It would take Phoenix just under ten minutes to find the winner, when Hanzal neatly deflected an Adrian Aucoin point shot past Crawford and in turn, sending the Jobing.com arena into an all out frenzy. Obviously, the win was huge for the Coyotes and allowed them to draw first blood in the series but more importantly, it keeps them from the disappointment of that late third period goal possibly costing them not only the opening game of the series but also home ice advantage.
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