Scrambling with time running down in regulation, the Chicago Blackhawks found a way to score in the closing seconds for the second straight game.
This time, they pulled out a win to head back to the Windy City with home-ice advantage.
Bryan Bickell had his second goal 10:36 into overtime and the Blackhawks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Saturday night.
”I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, back to back games forcing overtime,” Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. ”But I was thankful we seized the opportunity and won this one.”
Phoenix took the opener 3-2 in overtime after giving up a goal to Brent Seabrook with 14 seconds left in regulation. Patrick Sharp did it to the Coyotes with even less time in Game 2, redirecting a shot by Kane with 5.5 seconds left.
Bickell, like Phoenix’s Martin Hanzal the game before, became the hero when he beat Mike Smith from between the circles after Viktor Stalberg kept a pass by Phoenix’s Rostislav Klesla in the Coyotes’ zone.
Brian Bollig also scored for Chicago, which tied the series at 1-1 as it heads back to Chicago for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
”It was exciting to get the goal to give the team the win, but you know what? It should be exciting to go back to Chicago now,” Bickell said.
The Coyotes had their chances.
Overcoming a second straight shaky start, they fought back and were leading 3-2 after Antoine Vermette scored two goals and Raffi Torres added another.
Smith was steady after nearly being knocked out by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw in the second period, making some big saves down the stretch and in overtime.
Phoenix just couldn’t put it all together, missing on a couple chances at an empty net at the end of regulation and Smith missing the two shots that mattered the most.
The combination prevented the Coyotes from taking a 2-0 lead in eight straight playoff series since moving to the desert since 1996 and leaves them needing to win in Chicago to regain home-ice advantage.
”We have confidence in our team on the road, we know how to play the game,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. ”As ugly and as painful as it looks, we all recognize that it’s one game. It’s going to be a long series.”
Phoenix won the opener by dictating the pace at just the right time, scoring two goals in the second period and the winner in overtime by keeping the Blackhawks in their zone for lung-burningly-long shifts.
Chicago had the early jump in Game 1, getting a goal from Jonathan Toews in his return from a concussion, and tied it late to force overtime. But for a puck-control team, the Blackhawks had a hard time holding onto it, bothered by Phoenix’s forechecking and aggressiveness in the neutral zone.
Chicago again started fast, getting a power play 1:08 into the game and outshooting Phoenix 9-1. Bickell scored at the end of the man advantage with a waist-high whack on a rebound off Dave Bolland’s shot, giving Chicago its first goal with a man advantage in its last 15 chances.
Just like Game 1, Phoenix fought back.
Torres tied it midway through the first period with a wrister out front after Doan fought off a defender from behind the net to get the pass off.
Vermette put the Coyotes up 2-1, camping out in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford before redirecting a shot by Keith Yandle for his third of the playoffs.
The power-play goal came after Kane was sent to the penalty box for goalie interference, a call that infuriated the Blackhawks because he took the brunt of the collision with Smith.
A bigger crash in the second period gave the Coyotes a bigger boost – following an initial scare.
After Bollig tied it with a wrister that beat Smith glove side, Phoenix’s goalie provided his team and the crowd with a bit of is-he-really-staying-in-the-game inspiration.
Playing a puck behind his goal, Smith was broadsided by Shaw, who charged in from the right side. Smith threw his head back after being struck by Shaw’s shoulder and went to the ice, where he lay on his back as four members of Phoenix medical team hovered over him.
Smith groggily sat up after a few minutes, prompting a chant of ”Smitty! Smitty!” from the home crowd, then caused a roar as he gingerly skated toward his net. Smith squirted water from a bottle over his head, strapped his helmet back on and parked himself back in the crease.
Shaw, who was surprised by the call, was sent off with a 5-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct.
”The league will look at that,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. ”Obviously, that’s contact to the head. Doesn’t matter if it’s a goaltender or a player, that’s blindside contact to the head and I’m sure the league will look at it.”
With Smith back, the adrenaline-infused Coyotes didn’t long to score on the ensuing power play, Vermette putting them up 3-2 with a wrister from the left circle.
Smith was sturdy after nearly being cold cocked, stopping two power plays to end the second period and making several tough saves in the third.
But, just like the opener, he couldn’t stop Chicago in the closing seconds.
With Crawford off for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks peppered Smith with a flurry of shots in the closing seconds. Smith turned back most of them, but couldn’t react in time when Sharp, positioned right in front of him, ticked Kane’s shot from the point to send the game to overtime.
Unlike the opener, the Blackhawks got the win this time, thanks to a gritty play by Stalberg and a big shot by Bickell.
”A fortunate bounce, but at the same time we did some good things as the game went on,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ”It was a competitive game, one of those games where it was on the line throughout, but today we got the bounce.”
Notes: Coyotes C Martin Hanzal left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. LW Lauri Korpikoski also went out in the third period. … Phoenix had killed off 30 straight penalties before Bickell’s goal in the first period. … Chicago’s Duncan Keith had an assist on Bollig’s goal and leads Blackhawks defensemen with 30 points in 47 career playoff games.