By Brad Vandenberk
Instead of white t- shirts on the seats of the Jobing.com arena, Game 2 of the western conference quarterfinal saw white pom pom’s riddled throughout the arena. The Chicago Blackhawks needed a big win to avenge the loss they suffered on Thursday night in overtime. Martin Hanzal’s tip past Corey Crawford gave the Coyotes and 1-0 lead in the series. The Hawks were looking to head back to Chicago with a split in the series.
Radim Vrbata returned to the line up for the Coyotes after suffering a shoulder injury and leaving game 1 early without returning. With speculation circling that the Hawks would be making slight tweaks to the line up, the only change that was made saw Sami Lepisto teamed up with Niklas Hjalmarsson on the 3rd D paring with Sean O’Donnell taking his veteran leadership to the press box. Corey Crawford and Mike Smith remained the starting goalies. The Hawks were confident that they were close in Game 1 to beating the Coyotes and need to get more shots on net and also add more traffic in front of Mike Smith. Jonathan Toews stated that he felt great being back on the ice after missing the last 22 games with a concussion. He scored the Hawks first 2012 Stanley Cup playoff goal squeaking one past Smith in game 1.
Just over a minute into the first period, Patrick Sharp burst in on a partial breakaway, and Antoine Vermette was the last man back slashing Sharp during his shot. He was sent to the box and the Hawks were awarded the first power play of the game. This would be a great opportunity to get the Hawks on the score board and gain momentum on the road. Johnny Oduya gave a pass to Dave Bolland who wired a shot on net. Bryan Bickell was there to tap home the rebound out of mid air and give the Hawks a 1-0 lead with 16:55 remaining.
Shane Doan had his Stanley Cup emotions in overdrive as he continued his dominate play. He gets in behind the Hawks net and passes the puck to a wide open Raffi Torres who makes no mistake and rips it past Crawford tying the game at 1.
Martin Hanzal gathers the puck and tries to head into the Hawks zone. He slows up on what seems to be an innocent looking play and heads for the bench. The Coyotes again lost a key member of their team early as Hanzal did not return. With the Hawks sticking to their game plan and firing pucks from all angles as well as going hard to the net, Toews was called for an odd goaltender interference call. He tried to avoid Smith but the refs saw it differently and the captain headed to the box. During the power play Vermette made up for his mistake earlier and tipped a Keith Yandle shot past Crawford giving the Yotes the lead 2-1. The Coyotes kept coming as Lauri Korpikoski breaks in with another great chance but Crawford is there to deny him. Coach Q decided to switch up the lines as Patrick Kane moved back to playing center with Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette. Toews was partnered with Sharp and Viktor Stalberg. The Hawks ended the period out shooting the Coyotes 18-11 but trailing 2-1.
The Coyotes came out flying in the second with Vrbata and Ray Whitney peppering Crawford. Doan was getting quite fancy as he put a puck through his legs and tried to go back hand over Crawford. The Hawks tender made some brilliant saves to keep his boys close. Then Brandon Bollig breaks in on the left side and uses Coyote’s defensemen Derek Morris’ stick as a ramp to get it up over Smith. Bollig scored his first NHL goal and tied the game 2-2 with 13:03 left.
Andrew Shaw continued his pesky play. He chased a puck down in the Coyote’s offensive zone and Smith went behind his net to play the puck. Shaw tried to avoid the 6’4 220lbs monster but was unsuccessful, knocking Smith in the head sending the goalie to the ground. Shaw was awarded a 5 minute major charging penalty and a game misconduct. Smith needed a TV commercial to get back to his feet and remain in the game. Brunette served the major penalty while Shaw hit the showers.
During the Coyotes 5 minute power play Vermette strikes again. He blasts a shot from the top of the circle which slipped under Crawford’s glove hand and the Coyotes took the lead once again. The Hawks were able to kill off the remainder of the penalty but still trailed 3-2. Hawks get another great chance to tie the game on the power play as ex Hawk Captain Adrian Aucoin gets called for holding. The Hawks are unsuccessful during the man advantage and the score remains the same. Then, four minutes later, Whitney heads to the box for hooking but again Smith stands tall and the Hawks end the period out shooting the Coyotes once again 11-10 and trailing 3-2.
Bryan Bickell started the third period by putting the puck over the glass from his own end trying to send Bolland on a breakaway, but he shamefully heads to the box for delay of game and allows the Coyotes a chance to add to their lead. However, Crawford again came up big for the Hawks and kept his team in this game and potential the series. Bollig has another chance to add to his stats but a healthy Smith keeps the crowd happy stopping the play. Brent Seabrook has a blooper style play has he tries to dump the puck deep and instead falls flat on his face. He could have been feeling affects of getting a puck off the nose earlier on. Crawford was in fine playoff form as he continued to make some special saves to keep the game close. The Hawks also tried vigorously to tie the game as the newly formed lines that coach Q put together seemed to start to click. Finally as the period was about to expire the Hawks pull Crawford to tie the game. With 5.5 seconds left on the clock Seabrook lets one ride and Sharp redirects it past Smith and the Hawks do it again! They tie the game with seconds on the clock and take the Coyotes to overtime.
Hawks came out in the extra frame like a team that won the cup back in 2010, with an earlier fury and lots of puck toward Smith. Just over 5 minutes in OT, Crawford squeezes the puck on the goal line to keep the game tied and the crowd running out of finger nails. Stalberg breaks in on a 2 on 1 and elects to keep the puck and shoot. Smith makes the save and both goalies stand on their heads to keep this game close. Finally at the 9:24 mark of OT, the Coyotes defence are tired and scrambling to get the puck out of their zone. As they shot the puck around the boards Stalberg intercepts and finds a wide open Bickell in the slot. He fires it past Smith and the Hawks even the series 1-1 with a 4 3 OT win.
-Hawks out shoot the Coyotes 50-33
-Hawks were 1 for 3 on the power play with the Coyotes going 1 for 3 as well.
-Toews went 13 for 23 in the faceoff circle.
–Duncan Keith logged 32:02 of TOI for the Hawks.
-Bolland, Seabrook and Sharp all had 5 shots on net.
-Bickell had his first 2 goal game of his career.
-Shaw is set to have a disciplinary hearing on Monday for his hit on Smith.
–Corey Crawford sported his old mask for this game.
-The Hawks now travel back to the United Center for games two and three Tuesday and Thursday. Hopefully the Chelsea Dagger will be cranking as the Hawks have a great chance to take a commanding lead in this series.
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