CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 23: Ray Whitney #13 and Keith Yandle #3 of the Phoenix Coyotes hug teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 after Larsson scored a second period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 23, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Phoenix Coyotes Seal The Deal: Mike Smith Carries Team To 4-2 Series Victory Over Blackhawks

Coverage of the Coyotes and their run in the NHL playoffs.

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Phoenix Coyotes Seal The Deal: Mike Smith Carries Team To 4-2 Series Victory Over Blackhawks

The Phoenix Coyotes wouldn't need overtime Monday to send the Chicago Blackhawks home packing.

The Coyotes exploded in the third period to take down the Blackhawks 4-0, and secure a spot in the second-round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs.

Appropriately, the scoring came from all over the roster for the Coyotes. Oliver Ekman-Larsson would score in the second period on the power play, and then Gilbert Brule, Antoine Vermette and Kyle Chipchura would score in the third to put the game out of reach for the Blackhawks.


The 4-0 victory is something no one could have predicted after the first period the Coyotes played. The team played one of their worst periods of the season, managing just two shots on net and were visibly dominated by the Hawks.

However, the Coyotes had Mike Smith in net. Smith kept his team in the every game this series, and was especially spectacular in Game 6. Smith would end the game with his first shutout of the series, stopping all 39 shots he faced.

Smith is the best story of the NHL postseason, period. A goalie who was playing in the AHL last season is doing something that not a single person could have predicted coming into the season. Smith put the team on his back and helped them secure a spot in the second round for the first time in franchise history.

Smith stopped 229 shots through six games. For those of you who don't want to do the math, that is just over 38 saves a game.

With the Coyotes up 2-0 in the third, Jimmy Hayes took what may have been the series deciding penalty.

Hayes and Jonathan Toews double teamed Michal Rozsival against the boards, and Hayes shoulder slammed Rozsival's head, driving it straight into the glass. The play resulted in the Coyotes having a five minute power play.

The Coyotes did not have success early on the five minute man advantage, but with less than a minute left, Antonie Vermette, who has been dynamite for the Coyotes this postseason, would light the lamp to put the Coyotes up 3-0.


Just less than two minutes later Kyle Chipchura put in the dagger with a low-blocker snipe that surely sent groups of fans around the valley into hysteria.

It will take some time for this win to sink in for the Coyotes and their fans, but this is not the end of the line. The Coyotes now have a date scheduled with a talented Nashville Predators team.

The series with Nashville, who took down the Coyotes playoff nemesis the Detroit Red Wings four games to one in their first-round matchup, is schedule to start later this week.

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2012 NHL Playoffs, Coyotes Vs. Blackhawks Game 6: Game Time, TV Schedule And More

The Phoenix Coyotes were not able to hang on to their one goal and secure the franchises first ever playoff series victory Saturday, but the 'Yotes will have another shot to end the Chicago Blackhawks season Monday as they travel to the Madhouse on Madison for Game 6.

"We're going up there with the same mindset. We're going to have to play a tight game and find a way to win one," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Mike Smith has been stellar in net for the Coyotes, but the team will have to muster some more offense opportunities if they hope to close out the series. The Coyotes have managed only 38 shots on goal in the last two games. Chicago has had nearly double that with 70 shots.

The series has been, possibly, one of the most exciting ever. The teams have played an overtime period in every game so far in this series, totaling almost two full extra periods of play (38:19).

"This is my first playoff experience and to go to overtime every single game is pretty crazy," Coyotes center Gilbert Brule said. "It's an exciting way to finish a hockey game, for sure."

Game 6 will be broadcast nationally on CNBC, and locally in Arizona on Fox Sports Arizona Plus. If you are going to listen to the game on the radio, you can find it on XTRA Sports 910. Puck drops at 6 p.m. PST.

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Toews Goal Send Series To A Game 6

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It happened so fast, like all of these overtimes winners do. Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks gave the Phoenix Coyotes a taste of their own medicine, Toews beating Phoenix goalie Mike Smith 2 minutes, 44 seconds into overtime to win Game 5 of the teams' NHL playoff series 2-1 and force a Game 6 Monday in Chicago.

It was Toew's second goal of the series.

The Blackhawks staved off elimination from the playoffs and trail 3-2 in the series. They've won twice in overtime in Arizona and have lost twice in the extra session at home. Now, after five games in a row of overtimes, it has been firmly established that each team can win on the other's home ice.

That gives the Coyotes some confidence going east, even as they hoped to seal the deal and win their first-ever playoff series as the Phoenix Coyotes. It wasn't to be on Saturday, even though Phoenix led 1-0 after two periods following Gilbert Brule's first career playoff goal.

"We're going to go up there and battle. We need one win to win the series. They came out and played a very good game," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We're going up there with the same mindset."

Tippett called five overtime games "tight hockey." His counterpart Joel Quenneville of Chicago agreed, tapping his his chest over his heart.

"We stuck with it," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks outshot the Coyotes by double - 38 to 19. Mike Smith stopped 36 shots, continuing his strong goaltending in the series.

The Coyotes never really threatened to build on their lead after Brule's goal. The Blackhawks, perhaps sensing elimination, turned up the pressure and had better and more numerous chances.

One paid off in the third period, Nick Leddy beating Smith to tie it at 1 at 9:15 of the period.

The Blackhawks won despite four penalties called on Viktor Stalberg -- all different infractions. But Chicago killed off every power play for the Coyotes.

"They outworked us in the third period," center Kyle Chipchura said. "We knew they were going to throw everything at us. We're confident in this group on the road."

The crowd sensed victory from the start, many hoping no doubt that some professional team in the area would win a game Saturday after the Suns and Diamondbacks lost.


It wasn't to be. Many did come out in support of suspended forward Raffi Torres, however.

Coyotes players feel the team remains in the driver's seat to win this series. They have two games to do it and make their own history in the process, and in doing so perhaps garner more interest from a prospective owner.

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Overtime, Did You Expect Anything Else?

Five playoff games, five overtimes. That's what we have Saturday at Jobing.com Arena as the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes go to an extra session tied at 1.

The Blackhawks were the better team in the third period, no doubt sensing sudden elimination and cranking it up, to their credit. They killed a Phoenix power play and Mike Smith saved the Coyotes several times. At the 9:15 mark of the period, Nick Leddy had all day to shoot with no defender out on him, and Leddy, a defenseman, beat the previously impenetrable Smith to tie the score at 1.

The Coyotes penalty-killing unit came up big, but Smith was the biggest difference. At one point, he found himself on his back trying to take up as much space as he could; fortunately for the Coyotes, the last in a series of shots in that sequence sailed high.

Shane Doan had a chance to score but couldn't get off a shot with 1:46 left in regulation.

Well, here we go again. The Coyotes are 3-1 in overtime in the playoffs. The next goal will determine if this series ends or continues.

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Coyotes One...Period...Away From History

The Phoenix Coyotes sit 20 minutes away from their first playoff series victory, the first since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg and the first as an NHL franchise, Phoenix or Manitoba, in 25 years.

They're hoping to avoid overtime for a fifth consecutive playoff game. After two periods of play, they've allowed just one second-period goal in the postseason. They have been good in one-goal games this season and even better at holding onto leads after two periods.

And now it comes down to the third and final period.

Phoenix took the lead at 17:14 of the second, their fourth line making it happen. Gilbert Brule, a center claimed off waivers in January, scored on a 3-on-1 breakaway, the assist from Marc-Antoine Pouliot -- who made his playoff debut for Phoenix in Game 4.

Goaltender Mike Smith started the whole sequence and was credited with an assist.

Defenseman Michal Rozsival had his shot stopped by the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford at 5:01 of the period. Twenty-two seconds later, the Coyotes went on the power play after a slashing penalty, but didn't score.

The Coyotes will start the third period on a power play after Viktor Stalberg was whistled for his third penalty of the game, two minutes for tripping, with 25 seconds left in the second period. So Phoenix will have 1:35 of an advantage to start the final period.

Can they hang on and win a series not many outside of the Valley expected them to take?

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Blackhawks With Better Chances, But Scoreless After One

Well, it's clear that the Chicago Blackhawks aren't going to roll over despite being down in their NHL playoff series with the Phoenix Coyotes. The Blackhawks outshot the Coyotes 12-4 in the first period, but have nothing to show for it as yet.

Neither do the Coyotes. A tightly-played first period has produced no goals for either side.

There were a few minor scuffles on the ice early as it seemed Chicago sought to grab a physical advantage early. They didn't, though.

Left winger Viktor Stalberg was given two minutes for roughing at 6:21 of the period and the Coyotes went on the power play, but the Blackhawks controlled the puck for much that time period. Center Antoine Vermette put a shot on goal from in front and to the left of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford but was turned away.

Ray Whitney's wrist shot at 12:20 of the period didn't make it past Crawford.

At 14:04, Phoenix's Adrian Aucoin was whistled for tripping, and 1:40 later, Derek Morris was penalized for high-sticking, giving Chicago a two-man advantage for 20 seconds. But the Coyotes were able to kill both penalties.

The action has picked up more as the game has gone along in the past three games, it remains to be seen if that pattern will continue in Game 5.

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Coyotes Vs. Blackhawks Game 5: 'Yotes Chance To Advance Caps Off Big Sports Day In The Valley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As the opening faceoff approaches at Jobing.com Arena for Game 5 of the NHL playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes, it's worth noting that Saturday night's game is the capper on one of the bigger days in greater Phoenix area sports in recent times.

The day began with the annual Pat's Run, the road race in honor of the late Pat Tillman. Then came the Arizona State football spring game, also in Tempe, and the news that Coyotes forward Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games by the league for his hit on Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks in Game 3.

The afternoon brought a big game for the Phoenix Suns downtown as the U.S. Airways Center, a game the Suns needed to strengthen their playoff chances but did not get. Also downtown, the Arizona Diamondbacks played the third game of their ongoing series with the Atlanta Braves having lost four straight and reeling from the loss of several key players to injury and the disabled list.

But here in Glendale, the Coyotes can make this area feel a lot better about everything with a victory. A win gives the 'Yotes a series victory and send them on to the second round for the first time since the club moved to Arizona. The atmosphere before the game was electric and the Whiteout continues, with rally towels on the back of every seat in the building.

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The Blackhawks are reeling. They lost back-to-back overtime games at home in Chicago this past week and lost leading scorer Hossa to Torres' check. The Coyotes have set the tone physically and can finish the job Saturday.

The fans are ready for sure, hoping the Coyotes celebrate on the ice when the game is over.

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Boedker's Overtime Winner Gives Coyotes 2-1 Series Lead On Hawks

Mikkel Boedker scored 13:15 into the overtime period Tuesday night to give the Coyotes the 3-2 victory and the 2-1 series lead in their first-round matchup of the 2012 NHL Playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Boedker snuck the game-winner past Corey Crawford from nearly the goal line on the left side of the ice. The goal was slightly reminiscent of the goal Patrick Kane scored to win the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks in 2010. The game was the third consecutive overtime contest the teams have played.

Here is a video of Boedker's game-winner.


The storyline of this physical series has been injuries. Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski were already out with upper-body injuries for the Coyotes, but it is a hit by Raffi Torres in the first period that has people talking.

The gritty winger Torres put a shoulder into the chin of Blackhawks point-leader Marian Hossa midway through the first period. Hossa would lay on the ice for quite some time before being taken off in a stretcher. There was no call on the play, but it is expected that league officials will review the hit. Hossa led the Hawks with 77 points this season.

"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 released by the Blackhawks after the game. "He has been released from the hospital and we are monitoring him closely at home."

Chicago scored a goal late in the first period on an Andrew Brunette redirection of a Patrick Kane shot to give them a 1-0 lead, and that slight lead would hold up until early in the third period when Rostislav Klesla would fire a rocket from the point past Crawford. The goal was the first of Klesla's career in the playoffs.

The teams would then trade goals just over 30 second apart.

Michael Frolik, who was inserted into the lineup for the suspended Andrew Shaw, played a strong game all night. Frolik picked up a rebound of a Brent Seabrook shot to put his team up 2-1 at the 8:49 mark of the third.

That lead would not last long though. Just seconds later at 9:21 the wizard, Ray Whitney, would put home his first of the 2012 playoffs and force overtime for the third consecutive game.

If Torres is suspended, it could have big implications for the Coyotes. With Hanzal and Korpikoski already out, the depth they once had is waning. Paul Bissonnette, Gilbert Brule and Kyle Chipchura were all in the lineup Tuesday, and have all been healthy scratches this series.

If Torres, Hanzal and Korpikoski are all out for Game 4, expect Portland call-ups Alexandre Bolduc or Marc-Antoine Pouliot to be inserted into the lineup.

Game 4 will be played Thursday night at the United Center in Chicago, and the puck is scheduled to drop at 5 p.m. MST.

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Coyotes Look To Rebound Against Blackhawks In Game 3 After Heartbreaking OT Loss

For two straight games the Chicago Blackhawks have escaped losing in regulation to the Phoenix Coyotes by pulling goalie Corey Crawford, and getting a solid Brent Seabrook shot on goal from the point.

Seabrook scored with 14.2 second to even it up in Game 1, and then on Saturday night fired a shot that Patrick Sharp re-directed with 5.5 seconds remaining to force overtime. The Coyotes would pull out a 3-2 victory in Game 1, but were not so lucky in Game 2. Bryan Bickell ended the game on an Adrian Aucoin turnover and tied up the series up at 1-1.

The Coyotes will now have to win at least one game at the United Center, where the Blackhawks went 27-8-6 this season, to reclaim a home-ice advantage.

The biggest question for the Coyotes entering Game 3 is the health of Mike Smith. Smith remained in the game after taking a big blow behind the net from Chicago rookie Andrew Shaw, but did not practice Monday before the team took off for Chicago.

It's hard to imagine that that Smith would not play considering he remained in the game Saturday, but Phoenix coach Dave Tippett would not say if he would be available for Tuesday's matchup.

Two other players who remain questionable are center Martin Hanzal and left winger Lauri Korpikoski. Hanzal left Game 2 with an apparent lower-body injury, and Korpikoski headed to the locker room after taking a big hit. Both would have been a big help in the final seconds of Game 2, and would be missed if they did not suit up for Tuesday's game.

Game 3 has the potential to be one of the biggest in franchise history for the Coyotes. The 'Yotes have been the better team in the series, outside of the 19.7 seconds that led to the overtime periods, but will need to put away the game in the third period if they have the lead.

Game time: 6 p.m. MST

TV: CNBC, Fox Sports Arizona Plus

Radio: XTRA SPORTS 910

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Blackhawks Tie Series at 1 with 4-3 Overtime Win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes skated away undoubtedly feeling like they let Game 2 of their playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks get away. A missed open net in the final minute of regulation time, an inability to clear the puck in the final seconds and a failed clearance of the puck in overtime cost them a 2-0 series lead, as the Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell scored the winning goal in overtime in Chicago's 4-3 come-from-behind win.

With Phoenix's loss, the Coyotes missed a chance to go up 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time since the franchise arrived in Phoenix. The Coyotes haven't been up 2-0 in the playoffs since they were the Winnipeg Jets in 1987, and are now 0-for-8 in that area since becoming the Coyotes.

All of the rugged work in the trenches -- a lot of solid physical play and leads of 2-1 and 3-2, plus a two-goal night for Antoine Vermette -- was for not in the loss. Patrick Sharp sent the game into overtime with his goal with 5.5 seconds left in regulation time, and and Bickell sent the WhiteOut crowd home blue with the winner at 10:36 of overtime.

(See video of Antoine Vermette Game 2 postgame comments)

"It was disappointing," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We had the puck on our stick with about 15 seconds left (in regulation) and couldn't get it out and it ends up in the back of our net. It's tough luck."

Goaltender Mike Smith, who couldn't protect a 3-2 lead going into the third period after taking a hard hit to his head in the second but remaining in the game, was getting treatment in the locker room afterward but did say he felt 100 percent, which was some good news for Phoenix.

Smith, a major reason for the Coyotes' success all season and in Game 1 Thursday, was rocked by a shoulder from the Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw and lay on the ice for several moments before getting up and finishing the game. Again the Blackhawks buried him in shots, with 50 for the game, and Smith stopped 46 of them.

Coaches for both teams had differing views on the hit to Smith, which gave the Coyotes a five-minute power during which they scored and led to Shaw being ejected on a game misconduct.

"Obviously, that's contact at the head and it doesn't matter if it's a goaltender or a player," Tippett said, "that's blindside contact to the head."

Joel Quenneville of Chicago thought Shaw was trying to avoid contact and got sealed off by the boards.

The Coyotes players weren't completely despondent. They know there will be a Game 5 in their building, Jobing.com Arena, next weekend.

"You never want to give a game away the way we did but at the same time, it's just one game and we have to go in there (to Chicago) and win one of theirs," captain Shane Doan said. "We thought it was going to be a long series and it's going to be a long series."

Raffi Torres, who scored his first playoff goal for Phoenix in the second period, said the team can take a lot of good things from Game 2 and characterized this kind of playoff pressure as "fun," even after back-to-back games of taking leads into the closing seconds of regulation time only to go to overtime. But everyone was aware of the loss of key players Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski to injury, situations about which the team stayed mum.

Hanzal came out of the game early and Korpikoski in the last few minutes of regulation time.

"Our guys did a good job, they hung in there," Tippett said. "It's exactly the way I thought it was going to be, tight and very contested."

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Coyotes Score Two Unanswered Goals To Take 2-1 Lead After One

There's some swagger in the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 2 of the NHL playoffs Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The home team is delivering the best hits. It is crashing the net and putting a ton of pressure on the Blackhawks. And it has scored both in five-on-five and on the power play.

Yes, things looked good for the Coyotes at the end of the first period. It seemed fitting that big defenseman Rostislav Klesla skated toward the tunnel with a mouthpiece-covered grin on his mug after shrugging off a bump from a Chicago player as the teams left the ice for the intemission.

The Coyotes clearly cranked up the physical play on the Blackhawks for Game 2, in the wake of a first game that saw Chicago possess the puck for far too long, coach Dave Tippett pointed out between games, and use that possession domination to pepper Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith with 45 shots.

The Blackhawks took their shots on Smith to start off Game 2, but the Coyotes converted more of theirs.

Chicago went up 1-0 after a slashing penalty to Phoenix's Antoine Vermette, left winger Bryan Bickell knocking in a puck batted in the air after a shot by teammate Dave Bolland with three seconds left on the penalty. That's when the Coyotes became more physical with their play.

Raffi Torres was among those who made his presence felt, skating like a madman and being in the right spot to take pass from behind the net from teammate Shane Doan for a shot and goal at 8:52 of the period.

A few minutes later, Smith threw an NFL-style block that sent Chicago captain Jonathan Toews sprawling to the ice, and Toews was called for goaltender interference. It was a play that would've made a fullback proud.

On the power play at 13:44 of the period, the Coyotes took the lead when Keith Yandle's shot was ruled deflected in by Vermette, who was blocking goalie Corey Crawford's view of the shot.

The period ended with Taylor Pyatt of the Coyotes dropping Brent Seabrook with a check far from the action.

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Coyotes Take Blackhawks' Best Shot, Hit Back With Physical Play Of Their Own

GLENDALE -- The Phoenix Coyotes held an early afternoon skate Friday at Jobing.com Arena, but only those who didn't play or played sparingly were on the ice, for the most part. The regulars had a long, taxing night Thursday, but they spoke to reporters. The theme of the day was how physical Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks was.

Speaking of physical, leading scorer Radim Vrbata is day-to-day, coach Dave Tippett said, with an "upper body injury." There's a sense he'll be available soon, if not Saturday for Game 2 then in subsequent games. The injury was the result of a hit mere moments into Game 1.

The line of Vrbata, center Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney had to be adjusted, and it took a few minutes for the Coyotes to gather themselves after Vrbata left.

"I don't think it was anything crazy," defenseman Adrian Aucoin said of the rough play. "Obviously we try to play a physical game. We have a lineup that everybody can grind it out a little bit, but I don't think anybody was out there to kill anybody. I thought it was some really good hockey."

Goaltender Mike Smith said things could get more intense.

"That's just the time of the year it is. It's time to finish all the checks and block shots and it hurts to win," Smith said. "This time of the season is the most important time to put your body on the line to take hits and give hits and do everything you can to win the hockey game."

Left wing Raffi Torres knows the Blackhawks aren't panicking down 1-0 in the series. Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

"These guys know how to win and they've done it," Torres said. "We gotta know that they're going to come out flying the next game."

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Coyotes Close Deal, Open Postseason With OT Victory Over Blackhawks

Given the history of the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL playoffs, even the most ardent fan painted in white for the traditional playoff White Out might not have believed.

The Coyotes had lost six of the previous seven Game Ones in franchise (Phoenix) history and have never made it out of the first round. There's still time to continue that lowly streak, but the Coyotes had something to celebrate Thursday -- an opening-game, 3-2 overtime victory in their quarterfinal playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks, in front of a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena.

The difference was found in the form of a number of players who were not Coyotes last season when Phoenix was trounced by the Detroit Red Wings in a four-game sweep. Goaltender Mike Smith logged 43 saves and center Antoine Vermette scored a goal with an assist from Raffi Torres.

The game-winner, though, went to Martin Hanzal, a six-year Coyote who knocked in a rebound at 9:29 of overtime to send most folks home happy.

"We just said that somebody's got to be the hero and then you had that moment, you score the goal, it was a great feeling," Hanzal said. "This is the playoffs and that's when it counts, I guess."

The Coyotes played without Radim Vrbata, their leading scorer in the regular season, who left the game in his first shift with an unspecified injury after taking a hit. No update on his condition was given.

Taylor Pyatt tied the score at 1 and Vermette gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead, both goals in the second period. The Coyotes trailed 1-0 after one on a Chicago goal by captain Jonathan Toews.

Phoenix appeared to have the game won, but Brent Seabrook put in a loose puck with 14.2 seconds left in regulation time to tie the score at 2. The game went to overtime, sudden death, and Hanzal's winner came suddenly off a lull in play.

"We've got people that are chipping in," coach Dave Tippett said. "We found a way to get a win."

Vermette, who came to Arizona in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 22, credited Torres with the key pass on his goal. Vermette's shot zipped past Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks with much force.

"To be successful in the playoffs, it's the way you manage your emotions within the game and within the series. That's what we said between the (regulation and overtime) periods," Vermette said. He hadn't been in the playoffs since 2009 with Ottawa.

Smith entered on a hot streak, always a key at playoff time. For the Coyotes to win, the game needed to be low-scoring against the prolific Chicago offense with Smith, new this year in place of Ilya Bryzgalov, stopping shots like he'd been doing. Mission accomplished, though Smith faced far too many shots for Tippett's liking.

"That goal can't happen but it did, and I got over it and battled from there on in," Smith said. "The atmosphere out there was unbelievable."

A little postgame video/audio from Tippett here: DaveTippettGame1

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After Blackhawks Force OT, Hanzal Shoots Winner For Coyotes

Brent Seabrook put in a rebound amid a flurry of activity in front of the net with 14.2 seconds left in regulation time for the Chicago Blackhawks, and Thursday's playoff game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Blackhawks went into overtime.

The goal had to be deflating for so many, including Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, who had a huge third period keeping the Blackhawks off the board. But the Coyotes defense faltered in the final seconds.

That feeling, though, came and went in a matter of minutes, as Martin Hanzal re-directed a shot from Adrian Aucoin at the 9:29 mark of the first overtime period, giving the Coyotes the win and a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks.

It was the Coyotes' first overtime playoff game since 1999 against St. Louis.

Video of the game-winner:

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Pyatt, Vermette Put Coyotes In Front 2-1 After Two

Now THIS is a good sign for Coyotes fans. With a 2-1 lead going into the third period, Phoenix is 33-1 in games this season when leading after two.

Taylor Pyatt culminated a series of shots on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with a goal at 7:38 of the period. The Coyotes really cranked it up on offense and defense in the second period and their effort paid off.

At one point, two Coyotes had lost their sticks but still stayed strong in protection of their goal, and the situation didn't cost them.

Phoenix actually had a two-man advantage after penalties, but couldn't cash in. They did, however, take the lead at the 2:33 mark when Antoine Vermette, who arrived late in the season in a trade with Columbus, blasted a wrist shot past Crawford that was so fast it had to be seen live to be truly appreciated.

Now the sellout crowd of 17,138 will see if these Coyotes can hang onto a lead once again and take Game 1 of this series.

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Toews' Surprise Goal Has Coyotes Facing 1-0 Deficit At First Intermission

In some ways, the Phoenix Coyotes must have felt a bit snakebitten after the first period of Thursday's Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

They trailed 1-0 on an early goal by the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, the Chicago captain who is in his first game back after missing the last 22 games of the regular season with a concussion. Toews came out from behind the net to take a pass from teammate Patrick Kane and send in a difficult shot from the side of the net. As good as Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith has been this season, even he didn't seem to be expecting that difficult-angle flip.

Phoenix is also without right wing Radim Vrbata, their leading scorer with 35 goals this season, who has been out of the game since the opening moments when he took a hard hit and came off the ice.

Coyotes fans must be used to their team playing from behind in the playoffs, and must be wondering if the team is destined for another quick playoff exit. But the Coyotes showed some life at times in the first period and their defense has played well despite the constant Blackhawks attack.

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Coyotes Vs. Blackhawks: Key Matchups To Watch For

The puck drops at 7 p.m, Thursday, at Jobing.com Arena as the Phoenix Coyotes kick off their first round matchup of the 2012 NHL playoff with the Chicago Blackhawks, but what are some of the key matchups to watch for?

Jonathan Toews Vs. Post-concussion symptoms

The first matchups to watch for is taking place off the ice. Blackhawks captain, Toews, has not taken the ice with his team since Feb. 19. The 23-year-old Toews missed the last 22 games of the regular season and his skills and leadership were missed by his teammates.

Even Vegas sees the difference Toews makes on the ice. If Toews suits up, the Blackhaws are a 7-5 favorite to advance. Without him in the lineup, that drops severely, so much that the Coyotes are the favorites.

"As a young hockey player, you have a certain level of invincibility where you don't think that far down the road, but you have to be careful," Toews said. "The biggest thing I'm worried about is my game ready to go and is my conditioning there. If all those things fall into place, then I won't be risking the fact that this might happen again."

Mike Smith Vs. Blackhawks top scorers

Smith is entering the postseason on fire. The Coyotes net minder put the team on his back as they reeled of five-conseutive wins to conclude the season, which included a scoreless stretch of 234:25 and a 54-save performance in a win over Columbus.

Smith has also not dropped a game against Chicago this year, going 3-0. The Coyotes only loss against the Blackhawks came with Jason LaBarbera in net.

"The biggest thing has been getting the opportunity to play, win or lose, is not having to worry about when I'm going to get my next start, but worrying about the game I'm playing in," Smith said.

Smith may have cemented his place as a starter on a playoff team, but during the series he will have several NHL stars gunning to get the puck by him.

Those names include: Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and of course Jonathan Toews if he is ready to go.

Hossa is the oldest of the bunch, but is having his best year since 2007, tallying a team high 77 points. Sharp is next in line with a team-high 33 goals, and Kane finished with 23 goals and 66 total points, despite a major goal drought that lasted until just about the all-star break. Toews, who only played 59 games, finished the regular season tied for second on the team with 29 goals.

Smith will have his hands full, but he has proven this year that he is among the league's top talents in net. Expect Smith to continue his stellar game in net, but the Coyotes have to be wary of giving the Blackhawks goal scorers too many chances.

Coyotes secondary scoring Vs. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery

If the Coyotes hope to win their first series in franchise history they will have to get scoring from players who don't have Whitney, Vrbata or Doan sewn on the back of their jerseys.

Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt all came on strong at the end of the season to give the Coyotes support upfront and they will have to continue to contribute in the playoffs. The trio of Whitney, Vrbata and Doan combined for 81 of the Coyotes regular season goals, nearly 40 percent.

It looks like Crawford will get the start in net after playing well down the stretch for the Hawks; however, he is probably on the shortest leash among playoff goalies. If Crawford lets in some early, weak goals, or the Blackhawks are not winning, do not be surprised to see Emery get the nod from coach Joel Quenneville.

There will be plenty of opportunity for the Coyotes to light the lamp on the Blackhawk's shaky situation in net, but they will have to capitalize on those chances.

Brent Seabrook Vs. Raffi Torres

Torres came over to the Coyotes in the off-season from the Canucks and brought his gritty game with him. Another thing Torres brought over with him is his rivalry with the Blackhawk's top defender, Seabrook.

In game three of the Canucks series with the Blackhawks in 2011, Raffi Torres delivered this devastating hit to Seabrook. Seabrook would return, but it was obvious he was not the same player. Keep an eye out for Seabrook to try and settle the score, or Torres being Torres and doing a little extra antagonizing to the defenseman.

NHL: Raffi Torres Hit on Brent Seabrook Game 3 4/17/11


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Path To The 2012 NHL Playoffs: Phoenix Coyotes Vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Phoenix Coyotes take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs, but how did the teams get to this point?

Phoenix Coyotes (42-27-13, First place in Pacific Divsion, #3 seed)

The Coyotes started the year in rough waters, with the bad taste of a playoff sweep was still lingering. The franchise remained in the desert through the off-season, but the team was still without an owner. The Coyotes also saw their franchise goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, leave for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Instead of Bryzgalov, the Coyotes were starting a guy by the name of Mike Smith in net. Not much was known about Smith and he sounded more like the guy next door than an NHL goaltender.

Little did anyone know that Smith would obliterate his career highs in nearly every category, set the NHL record for saves in a game and be the main catalyst in the Coyotes playoff run. Bryz who?

Smith was not the only newcomer to the Coyotes roster. Veterans Raffi Torres and Daymond Langkow would come over in the off-season, along with former Anaheim Duck Kyle Chipchura and Washington Capital Boyd Gordon.

The Coyotes first-round pick in the 2009 draft, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, would also become a full-time contributor on defense for the 'Yotes, after only playing 48 games in the previous season. The 20-year-old Ekman-Larsson would embrace his role and become one of the Coyotes top defenders through the year.

Despite the changes to the roster, the Coyotes were still looking very thin on offense. Kyle Turris had looked like promising prospect that could put the puck in the net, but he decided to holdout for a new contract. The holdout would last through January, and sour his relationship with the Coyotes organization. He would be shipped out shortly after signing a new deal to Ottawa for defenseman David Rundblad and a draft pick.

Who was left to fill up the score sheet? Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney? Whitney had already been playing in the NHL when teammate Ekman-Larsson was born, and Vrbata had never broken the 30 goal barrier in his career.

Both would end the season with career years, and Whitney would join a select group that only 78 other NHLers are a part of.

The first half of the Coyotes season was a nice surprise. The team was 24-16-9 entering the all-stat break and doing better than anyone expected, especially with the restrictions that not having an owner brought. Whitney and Vrbata were lighting up the score sheet, and Smith was already in the conversation as the teams MVP.

Still, the Western Conference was packed and the 'Yotes being an real playoff contender was still in question.

Then February rolled around.

The Coyotes would finish the month 11-0-1, the best month in franchise history. They were the leagues hottest team and the playoffs were just over a month away.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they would come back to Earth in March. The team started the month with four straight losses, and opened the door for a heated playoff race.

Nearing the end of March six teams were batting for the final playoff spots. Three of those teams were out of the Pacific Division and the divisions title was no longer secured by San Jose, who held is for most of the year.

As the end of the season drew closer, Coyote fans were crossing their fingers that the team could hold on and make the playoffs.

This is where goaltender Mike Smith began to become a legitimate NHL star and not just another goalie.

The Coyotes would reel off five consecutive wins to end the season. Smith would only let in two goals in that span and record his sixth, seventh and eighth shutouts consecutively. During the three shutouts he faced 38, 44, and 54 shots.

Smith's 54 saves against Columbus in his final shutout became an NHL record for most saves in a regulation game.

Vrbata would finish the season with a career high 35 goals, and Ray Whitney, at the age of 39, would put up up the second best point total of his career with 77.

Whitney would also become the quietest member of the 1,000 point club during the season. The wizard Whitney did something only 78 other players in the history of the game had done, nearly unnoticed.

Behind the teams five-game streak to end the season the Coyotes rocketed up the standings, securing not only the number three seed, but also their first division title.

Chicago Blackhawks (45-26-11, Fourth in Central Divsion, Sixth seed)

Don's let the Blackhawks sixth seed fool you.

Chicago was in what is arguably the toughest conference in the NHL. They finished the season with 101 points, which was good enough for only fourth in their division. That point total would have won the Pacific and Southeast Divisions handily.

The Hawks came into the season with something the Coyotes did not have; expectations.

Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp are all NHL stars. Not just elite players or prospects, but stars. Chicago is comprised of some of the best young talent the NHL has to offer, and they were only one year removed from hoisting the cup over their heads.

However, the Blackhawks had a disappointing end to their 2010-2011 season. After just barely sneaking into the playoffs, the team was knocked out by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round in seven games. Fans in the Windy City wanted banners, not first round knockouts.

The Hawks began the season as one of the Western Conference's power house teams, and sure contenders for the cup. This was all despite one of their key players being in a major rut.

For just over 20 games Kane could not find the back of the net. Kane would eventually break out of the slump, but Chicago had bigger problems on the horizon.

Starting from just before the all-star break, the Blackhawks would lose nine times in a row, with only one of those losses in overtime. The Hawks, a team that just a month earlier was sitting atop the Western Conference and tied for the NHL's best record, had slipped all the way to sixth in the west and were only three points away from falling out of a playoff spot.

To add to the Hawks problems their captain, Toews, was out with a lingering concussion symptoms and his return for the season was questionable.

The injury hit the Blackhawks hard, but they could not sit around and cry for their wounded captain. Their fourth straight postseason appearance was in jeopardy.

The Hawks would get on track after the losing streak, but their effort was only good enough to lock up the sixth seed. The St. Louis Blues came out of nowhere to win their division behind new coach Ken Hitchcock, while the Nashville Predators and perennial powerhouse Red Wings took the fifth and six seeds respectively.

Chicago had a chance to move up a seed and jump Detroit during the final game of the season when they were up 2-1 on the Red Wings with less than a minute to go, but a goal with 46 seconds left forced overtime and gave Detroit the one-point they needed to lock up the fifth seed.

The Hawks will now face the Coyotes in a showdown in the desert. Toews has reportedly been practicing with the first line, and is scheduled to make his return for game one. The return of the Hawks captain and 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner would surely kickstart Chicago, but there is nothing certain about injuries in the NHL.

The two teams paths cross at 7 p.m. April 12, at Jobing.com Arena.

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NHL Playoff Preview: Pacific Division Champion Coyotes Take On Chicago Blackhawks In First Round

It took all 82 games to decide, but the Phoenix Coyotes beat the odds to capture their first division title in franchise history and lock up the number three seed in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Coyotes will play the six seed Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, a team they played well against this year. The Coyotes won three out of the four regular-season contest against the Blackhawks.

The Coyotes will be looking to do something the franchise has not done since they moved to the Valley; win a playoff series and advance to the second round. In the teams previous two playoff trips the Coyotes were bounced from the playoffs by a veteran laden Detroit Red Wings team, including a disappointing four game sweep in 2011.

The Coyotes were only 46 seconds away from meeting the Red Wings for a third consecutive year, but a late goal in the final game of the season forced overtime and gave Detroit the single point they needed to lock up the fifth seed.

The 'Yotes are entering their third straight postseason on fire, winning their last five games. The catalyst in all those wins was Mike Smith. Smith only let two pucks past him during the five game streak and is playing the best hockey of his career.

Chicago has a nice streak of their own going entering the playoffs. The Hawks have lost only two games in regulation since the beginning of March.

The Coyotes may be the higher seed in this matchup, but it is hard to imagine that they have a distinct advantage in the series. Chicago is a team that is loaded with young talent and are only two years removed from winning the cup. The Coyotes have proved that they can run with the top teams in the Western Conference, but will this be the year the Coyotes finally break through?

Forwards

The Coyotes are led by Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan up front, but the team is built off distributed scoring.

The pairing of Whitney and Vrbata has worked wonders for coach Dave Tippett. The wizard Whitney joined the 1,000 point club and Vrbata put away a career high 35 goals, 12 that were game winners.

Offseason acquisition Raffi Torres has not only brought depth to the Coyotes bench, but also grit. Torres is not scared to throw his body around or drop the gloves to get his teammates going. And you know the former Canuck has to be hungry for a cup after losing in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals last year.

The Blackhawks have five players who eclipsed the 20-goal mark, but one of those players is captain Jonathan Toews who has not played since mid-February due to a concussion. While Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane have picked up the slack in Toews absence, his health is probably the biggest wild card in this matchup.

The captain Toews is expected to suit up for game one, but nothing has been confirmed by the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks averaged just a shade under three goals a game at 2.94, while the Coyotes averaged only 2.56.

Both teams rank in the bottom five in power play effectiveness, not a staple of championship caliber teams. The Coyotes rank 29th and the Hawks 26th.

Edge: Blackhawks

Defense

The Coyotes have been strong along the blue line all year. Former first round pick Oliver Ekman-Larsson has played with veteran-like savvy despite being only 20-years-old and all-star Keith Yandle has continued to be one of the NHL's best offensive defenseman. Yandle and OEL combined for 75 points this year.

The Blackhawks have a strong first defensive paring with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook patrolling the blue line, but after that they are a little thin. The addition of Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline has helped out the Blackhawks, but defense is not the teams forte. They need to score goals to win games.

The lack of defense has shown on the penalty kill for the Hawks. Chicago has struggled with a man in the box, ranking 27th on the penalty kill. The Coyotes rank eighth.

Edge: Coyotes

Goaltending

Not enough can be said of the job Mike Smith has done in net for the Coyotes. Smith has had a career season between the pipes, putting up 38 wins and recording eight shutouts.

There is little doubt that Smith is the hottest goaltender going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Smith is coming off a record-threatening shutout streak and five straight victories. The Coyotes would not be in the position they are in without Smith in net.

It is a much different situation for Chicago. Neither Corey Crawford nor Ray Emery got the nod as the clear number one goaltender, but it looks like Crawford will get the start against the 'Yotes.

Both goalies have struggled and have posted very similar numbers. Emery and Crawford both have goals-against average in the 2.80 range, and a save percentages that sit at about the .900 mark.

Edge: Coyotes

How the Coyotes will win

The Coyotes are not an offensive juggernaunt, but they will not have to be if Smith keeps up his stellar play in net. Smith put the team on his back, and it is why they are in the playoffs. Don't expect it to be any different in the postseason. As long as the layoff between the end of the regular season and Thursday's game did not extinguish the fire in Smith's crease, the Coyotes will have an edge to win the series.

Offensively for the Coyotes, Vrbata and Whitney are natural scorers and will find their way onto the scoresheet. They won't be able to do it alone though. If the Coyotes can get contributions from Lauri Korpikoski, Martin Hanzal and Taylor Pyatt, who all heated up during the Coyotes five-game streak to end the season, the Coyotes will make it much easier for themselves.

Another thing the Coyotes will have to do is shut down the Blackhawks top scorers. Kane, Sharp and Hossa are all threats to score whenever they are on the ice. Veterans like Derek Morris, Adrian Aucoin and Michal Rozsíval will have to step up on the defensive and put a body on the Blackhawks scorers early and often.

The most worrisome thing for the Coyotes may be something they cannot control. This time last year rumors began to surface of the team relocating. It seemed almost imminent that the franchise would move back to WInnipeg, and players admitted that the distraction of relocation was a very real thing. You cannot put all the blame for the sweep against the Red Wings on that, but there is no doubt it played a role. Hopefully the NHL will do their best to keep the rumors under wraps until the playoffs are over.

Final prediction: Coyotes in 6 games

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