After 16 of the 48 games in the conference quarterfinals went past regulation, the conference semis started out the same way, with Phoenix needing an extra 14:04 to beat Nashville 4-3 on Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
It was the first OT game of the playoffs for Nashville, the only team to make it to the second round without playing one. The Coyotes more than made up for it -- Phoenix tied a playoff record by going into overtime in each of its first five games against Chicago and set a Stanley Cup record by going past regulation for the sixth time in their seven games.
Friday's OT game means this year's playoffs have already seen more overtime games than were played in all of 2007-08 and '08-09, and have matched the 17 played in 2006-07. There were 22 played last spring, the most since the same number in 2003.
Left Wing - PHX
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 5
SOG: 19 | +/-: 1
SOG: 19 | +/-: 1
To say that Whitney's been waiting a long time for his second overtime goal would be an understatement. Whitney was just a pup of 23 when he scored in the second overtime of Game 7 in San Jose's opening-round series against Calgary in May 1995. It's the longest drought between overtime goals in Stanley Cup history, eclipsing the 14 years between OT goals by Teemu Selanne, who had one with Winnipeg in April 1993 and didn't get another until May 2007 with Anaheim, when he helped the Ducks to the lone Stanley Cup in franchise history.
As unexpected as Whitney's OT goal might have been, Martin Hanzal's effort in the faceoff circle that set up the winner was equally out of the blue. Hanzal went 14-8 on faceoffs in Game 1, including a win in the draw that led to Whitney's winner. But before Friday, Hanzal had been just 5-14 on faceoffs in the playoffs -- when he was healthy enough to play. He left Game 2 against Chicago with a lower-body injury and didn't return until Game 6. Hanzal was solid in the circle during the regular season, winning 52 percent of his draws.
Doing it the hard way -- Whitney may have been the overtime here, but Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith continues to be the hardest-working man in the playoffs.
Smith stopped 39 of 42 shots on Friday before Whitney's goal, the seventh time in as many games that he's faced 32 or more shots. Phoenix has been outshot in all seven of its postseason games -- six times by 11 shots or more, including 42-24 on Friday. Phoenix has taken exactly 100 fewer shots than it has allowed. But the Coyotes have won five of the seven thanks to Smith, who has stopped 268 of the 283 shots he's faced.
One thing the Coyotes will have to do better if they hope to keep advancing in the playoffs is safeguard third-period leads. Whitney's OT winner came after the Coyotes allowed a game-tying goal in the final five minutes of regulation for the fourth time in seven games.
The Coyotes were 33-1-0 during the regular season when leading after two periods; their .971 winning percentage was second in the League. But in the playoffs, they've already lost twice in five games when taking a lead into the third period and have blown late leads in two of the other three. The only game in which they led after 40 minutes and didn't need overtime was Game 6 against Chicago, when they scored three times in the final 20 minutes to turn a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 series-clinching victory.