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.