CHICAGO – Sixty minutes of hockey clearly isn't enough to decide games between the Coyotes and the Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. The two teams need to play into overtime to decide the outcome for the fourth straight game on Thursday night at the United Center, and for the third time in the four games, the Blackhawks forced OT by scoring the tying goal late after pulling goaltender Corey Crawford for an extra attacker.
But just as he did on Tuesday in Game 3, Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker scored the game-winning goal, this time by outmuscling defenseman Nick Leddy before sliding the puck under Crawford at 2:15 to give the Coyotes a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
Phoenix can win a series for the first time since 1987, when the franchise was based in Winnipeg, with a victory in Game 5 at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday.
"Our players in here, I think they’re thriving under the pressure," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I think that’s great for our group... Everyone always talks about the adversity we deal with on a day-to-day basis, but one thing that adversity can do is really bond or galvanize your group, and we’ve seen it. It started three years ago, and it continues to galvanize us.”
The game was scoreless before the Coyotes got third-period goals by Shane Doan and Taylor Pyatt 44 seconds apart to grab a 2-0 lead. But the Blackhawks got one back when little-used forward Brendan Morrison scored at 10:25, setting up another frantic finish.
This time, Michael Frolik shoveled home a rebound with 1:26 left in regulation -- just seconds after Crawford had reached the bench and been replaced by an extra attacker. Phoenix has taken one-goal leads into the final stages of Games 1, 2 and 4, only to see the Blackhawks tie the score each time.
But Boedker, the overtime hero in Game 3, took the air out of the building yet again (see KEY MOMENT below).
"That’s a tough goal," Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said. "We were in their zone, had some momentum, had some pressure and some one-on-one. It was a tough break at the end again. Kind of comparable to the last game. Brutal ending."
As anticipated, the Hawks came out early buzzing around and looking for an early goal to send a message onthe scoreboard. They took it to the Coyotes offensively in the first 10 minutes of the game, but couldn't get one past Mike Smith (30 saves) despite several close-range chances.
They also earned an early power play that kept Smith jumping despite just one of the shots launched his direction being on-target. Phoenix didn't get its first shot against Crawford until 9:16 had expired and the Blackhawks goalie had no trouble stopping Antoine Vermette's wrister from 18 feet out.
Smith was sharp, but a big reason the Blackhawks didn't take an early lead in the first was because of the Coyotes' defense -- which blocked nine shots in the opening period. Phoenix got the better of the action opening the second, including a breakaway chance by Ray Whitney. But Crawford made a nice pad save to stop Whitney and Chicago eventually shifted the momentum back in its own direction.
The Blackhawks appeared to get on the board at the 7:33 mark, but the goal the crowd thought had been scored by Frolik off a breakaway was waived off. After blocking Keith Yandle's shot near the Chicago blue line, Frolik corralled the puck near center ice and broke in against Smith by himself. His shot went wide of the net, but hit the boards and bounced back without the Coyotes goalie noticing. The puck trickled between him and the post before going in, but the play had been blown dead already once officials lost sight of the puck.
Once again, the game went to the intermission break scoreless -- setting the stage for an exciting third period. Phoenix came out strong again and kept Crawford busy until finally cashing in on Doan's goal at 7:03. It came about as the result of a brilliant individual effort by the Coyotes' captain, who stripped the puck from Johnny Oduya in the right circle of the Blackhawks zone to set it up. Doan then zipped a cross-ice pass to Whitney for a shot Crawford had to scramble to save -- resulting in a rebound that Doan scooped into the net for his first goal of the series.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Just 44 seconds later, Pyatt scored his second of the series, set up by a short feed from Vermette behind the net, to make it 2-0 almost halfway through the final period.
Chicago, however, refused to wilt. Morrison's goal -- his first goal as a Blackhawk -- deflected off Rostislav Klesla's stick blade and sailed over Smith's shoulder to cut the margin to 2-1 and set the stage for an exciting final nine minutes.
"We’ll take the victory," Pyatt said. "it wasn’t real pretty for us tonight but we like where we’re sitting right now. It feels good, we know that fourth win is always the toughest one to get, so we’ll enjoy this here tonight and prepare for the next game at home."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
With the score tied 2-2 early in the overtime period, Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker
beat Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy to the puck in the neutral zone, fought his way past Leddy and went from backhand to forehand while going at full speed before sliding the puck through goalie Corey Crawford's pads to end the game.
► Click here
to listen to Boedker describe how the play unfolded.
"(Boedker) has really come in and played well," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "He’s a very good young player, he’s an intelligent player, he’s a today’s NHL kind of player because he’s got great speed, and he cares and he works, and you love to see people like that get rewarded, so good for him."
► Click here
to see the KEY MOMENT
• This series is only the second Stanley Cup Playoffs series to start with four overtime games.
• The Coyotes were credited with 50 hits. Center Antoine Vermette
led the way with 11.
• Center Boyd Gordon
, the top faceoff man in the NHL on the road during the regular season, won 15 of 22 draws.
• The last time the Coyotes went up 3-1 in a playoff series was against the St. Louis Blues in 1999. St. Louis won that series in seven games.
• The Coyotes upped their record vs. Chicago to 11-4-1 under Head Coach Dave Tippett.
• Before the game, the Coyotes added nine players to the roster. Click here
to read more.
• Forward Paul Bissonnette
received a game misconduct penalty after his fight with Brandon Bollig in the first period because his sweater wasn't proeperly secured to his pants. Because of his ejection, Bissonnette played just 0:13.
• The Coyotes scratched Alex Bolduc, Louis Domingue
, Maxim Goncharov
, Martin Hanzal
(injured), Brett Hextall
, Lauri Korpikoski
(injured), Andy Miele
, Connor Murphy
, Justin Pogge
, Brett MacLean
, Marc-Antoine Pouliot
, David Rundblad
, David Schlemko
, Michael Stone
, Chris Summers
, Jordan Szwarz
, Raffi Torres
, Matt Watkins
and Ethan Werek
• The Coyotes' next game is Game 5 on Saturday vs. the Chicago Blackhawks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game is being televised on FOX Sports Arizona and NBC Sports Newtork, and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).