Mikkel Boedker’s shot from a difficult angle found its way into the net, ending an exhausting third overtime in three games, and sending the Phoenix Coyotes to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
But the defeat was only part of the Blackhawks’ bad Tuesday night. They also lost star forward Marian Hossa early, and they aren’t happy about it.
Phoenix has a 2-1 lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series, headed into Thursday night’s Game 4 in Chicago.
The Blackhawks might have to begin their comeback attempt without Hossa, their regular-season points leader. Hossa was carried off on a stretcher after a crushing hit from the Coyotes” Raffi Torres, and the Blackhawks will likely be short-handed for the rest of the physical and heated series.
”It was a brutal hit,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said, displeased that Torres wasn’t penalized.
”I saw exactly what happened. It was right in front of me,” Quenneville said. ”How four guys missed it was hard. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace.”
The blow came hours after Chicago’s Andrew Shaw had been suspended three games for a hit he put on Phoenix goalie Mike Smith in Game 2.
”As far as the hit goes, I felt like it was a hockey play. I was just trying to finish my hit out there,” said Torres, who leveled Chicago’s Brent Seabrook in the playoffs a year ago when he played for Vancouver.
Asked if he was concerned about coming off his skates to make the hit, Torres said: ”I’m not going to answer that.”
Hossa was released from the hospital, and is expected to recover completely, but there is no timetable for his return.
”After initial evaluation on the ice, (Hossa) was taken by ambulance to the hospital for further testing, which yielded encouraging results,” team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement put out by the Blackhawks after the game. ”He has been released from the hospital and we are monitoring him closely at home.”
The Blackhawks were already without Shaw, who was suspended on Tuesday for his hit that knocked Smith to the ice – but didn’t force him out of Saturday night’s Game 2. Smith was booed loudly Tuesday night, especially when he went behind the net to get a puck early in the game.
Hossa was near the boards at center ice and had just turned and passed the puck when Torres left his skates and delivered a shot with his shoulder that knocked Hossa to the ice. Hossa was down for about five minutes as medical personnel rushed immediately to his side, and then was taken off of the ice on the stretcher at 11:51 of the opening period.
About two and a half hours later, Boedker found the net from the left side and gave the Coyotes the victory, their third in three games at the United Center this season.
”It rolled through his legs,” Boedker said. ” I was trying to hit his pad. I thought of going to the net, and I was actually shooting for a rebound, but it went through his legs and that was good for me and good for everybody in here.
”Now we’re up 2-1 and that’s the position that we like very much.”
Andrew Brunette and Michael Frolik had goals for the Blackhawks, and Rostislav Klesla and Ray Whitney scored for the Coyotes in regulation. Chicago led 1-0 midway through the third period.
Smith shook off a big hit he absorbed in Game 2 and made 35 saves – six in overtime – to earn the win. He was on the ice for five minutes Saturday night and was able to stay in that game. Watching Hossa being carried off was tough for him, too.
”It’s scary. Your heart goes out to him and his family. It’s past hockey,” Smith said.
Crawford had played well until the final shot eluded him. He finished with 31 saves.
”It’s a terrible goal. We dominated overtime. I thought I was feeling good the whole game long. I feel bad I gave them that one after the guys battled in overtime like that. It’s definitely on me,” Crawford said.
”We’ll just worry about the next one now.”
But they’ll do so without two of their top forwards.
Frolik, who replaced Shaw, gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead by scoring on a rebound off an attempt by Seabrook with both teams down a man in the third. But Whitney came right back a half minute later to punch in a rebound for the Coyotes and tie it.
Chicago led 1-0 after two periods, but the Coyotes got even a first time on Klesla’s first career playoff goal on a shot from the left circle – the first of three scores in a span of 65 seconds with both teams a man short after unsportsmanlike penalties on Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson and Phoenix’s Shane Doan.
The Blackhawks couldn’t understand why Shaw got a major penalty for charging, was ejected from Saturday’s game, and then was suspended, but Torres got nothing in the game on Tuesday.
”It’s pretty frustrating when you see that,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. ”He got to stay in the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to do something like that again.”
Seconds after the hit, Chicago’s Brandon Bollig was given a 10-minute misconduct for roughing.
In the final seconds of the first, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger won a faceoff. Nick Leddy got the puck and passed to Patrick Kane, whose shot from above the right circle was tipped in by Brunette with 29 seconds left in the first.
As the second period ended, a skirmish erupted between the teams, and goalies Crawford and Smith had words chest-to-chest as the teams went to their locker rooms. Toews was assessed a roughing penalty.
Notes: Coyotes C Martin Hanzal and LW Lauri Korpikoski were scratched after being injured in Game 2. Hanzal skated Tuesday morning and in warmups.