Apr 242012

By Brad Gardner

Phoenix closed out their first round series win over the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a 39-save shutout by Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith. The ‘Hawks out-shot the visiting Coyotes 39-20 in the game but fell by a final score of 4-0. Rookie defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson opened the scoring in the second and assisted on another goal to help Phoenix pull away with three third period goals.

The Blackhawks dominated play in the opening period but came up empty on the scoreboard. They out-shot Phoenix 16-2 in the opening 20 minutes, winning foot races and board battles with consistency. Andrew Shaw, back in the line-up after serving a three-game suspension, had one of the best chances of the period by driving to the net and redirecting a pinpoint saucer pass from Patrick Kane.

Despite the one-sided opening frame, the teams dropped the puck for the second period scoreless. The ‘Hawks again carried play with prime scoring opportunities by Jonathan Toews on a strong drive to the net, Brendan Morrison with a weak one-time opportunity, and Niklas Hjalmarsson sending a heavy blast that Smith had trouble controlling. The Coyotes’ goaltender managed to snuff out each chance and soak up the rebounds.

The Phoenix power play was able to break the tie 13:14 into the second period. Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent a quick shot on net from the blue line and beat Corey Crawford to the blocker side. Martin Hanzal was positioned in front of the net and Crawford was unable to react in time for the hard shot from the rookie defenseman.

Chicago earned the second power play of the night late in the second period. The man advantage unit was unable to establish anything in the offensive zone as the second period wound down. Nick Leddy was able to get a couple shots on net before the penalty expired about a half minute into the third, but it was ultimately another fruitless power play for Chicago.

Gilbert Brule extended the lead a couple minutes later on a centering pass from Kyle Chipchura behind the net. Daymond Langkow kept the puck in the zone along the boards and crashed the front of the net, clearing room for Brule to hit the corner on Crawford’s glove side. The two-goal deficit took the wind out of the sails of the Blackhawks and the home crowd.

The series took another ugly turn when Jimmy Hayes finished his check into the numbers of Michal Rozsival along the end boards. Rozsival was anticipating contact to his left from Sharp, but did not see Hayes barreling towards him. The Coyotes’ defenseman remained face-down on the ice for a couple minutes but was able to make his way to the locker room under his own power.

Hayes was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for the hit, effectively putting the Coyotes on the power play for almost half of the remaining regulation time. Although the ‘Hawks were able to kill over four minutes of the infraction, Phoenix eventually notched their second power play goal of the game off the stick of Antoine Vermette at 13:04 of the third. Ekman-Larsson sent the puck towards the net, where it was knocked down by Mikkel Boedker. He swept the puck over to Vermette, who had an open side of the net as all of the ‘Hawks searched for the puck.

The final tally was notched by Kyle Chipchura with about five minutes left in regulation. Brule’s centering pass missed Langkow, but Chipchura picked it up in the slot and beat Crawford high to the blocker side.

Game Notes

Corey Crawford finished with 16 saves on 20 shots, with those four goals being the most he allowed in a game all series. Between the traffic on the power play goals and the quick strikes generated from behind the net, all four were difficult stops to make. He made big stops against Langkow in the second and Vrbata in the third to keep the ‘Hawks within striking distance, but ultimately did not have a great game or series.

– As has been the story throughout the series, special teams played a huge role. Phoenix scored twice on four opportunities, including the five-minute major. Chicago was held scoreless on their two last power play opportunities, stretching their struggles to 1-of-19 in the series.

– Rostislav Klesla missed most of the first period after catching a skate to the face on his way to the ice. He returned in the second with a full cage and his right eye nearly swollen shut.

– Patrick Kane earned a late game misconduct penalty with 2:50 left on the clock. The TV cameras caught him chirping at Kyle Chipchura, but little else.

– Injured winger Marian Hossa met with the team earlier today and attended the game at the United Center. Daily Herald beat writer Tim Sassone was also in attendance and welcomed back by the TV crew.

Brad Gardner

In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.

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