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Protecting late leads hasn't been easy for Coyotes

By Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

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Protecting late leads hasn't been easy for Coyotes
The Coyotes, who led 2-1 in the final minute of Game 1 and 3-2 in the final seconds of Game 2, were forced to overtime in each case by a dramatic Chicago goal with their net empty on the other end.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – One minute left and the Phoenix Coyotes have a one-goal lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dave Tippett's club is 2-for-2 in that scenario coming to fruition so far in this Western Conference Quarterfinals Series. The Coyotes are 0-2 in holding that lead to the regulation horn – and 1-1 when it comes to pulling out an overtime victory.

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That's how close this series has been so far. Neither team has had a two-goal lead at any point in the series. And those one-goal leads haven't been very safe.

Just ask the Coyotes, who led 2-1 in the final minute of Game 1 and 3-2 in the final seconds of Game 2 but were forced to overtime in each case by a dramatic Chicago goal with their net empty on the other end. Martin Hanzal and Bryan Bickell traded overtime winners and the series is all even – with each team scoring six goals.

After coming within 5.5 seconds of sweeping the first two games of a series for the first time since 1987, the Coyotes welcomed an extra day off to mentally regroup before heading to Chicago – where the series resumes Tuesday night. But that’s about the only part of the script they would change at this point.

"Well, we want to finish and close things out. But, at the same time we've liked the way we've played," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said after Monday's practice and before the Coyotes headed to the Windy City. "I think in both games, they're kind of fortunate to get that last goal late. We'd love to be in the exact same position (in Game 3)."

To a large extent, the Coyotes have imposed their will and style on the Blackhawks. Chicago has had a lot of shots on goal, but a manageable amount of scoring chances. Phoenix center Antoine Vermette has more goals (three) than Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp combined (two) and the Phoenix power play has outscored Chicago's 2-1.

All in all? Not too bad.

"We knew that was going to be a tough series," Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said. "To sweep a team like that, or go up 2-0, to win every game is kind of crazy to think. You know that they're going to find a way to get their games and play good. I think we've got to move forward from it and just play the way we want to play."

The way Game 2 ended, a lot of teams would let that deflate them. That doesn't seem like that's the case around here. The guys seem pretty upbeat and ready to go."

Phoenix was 20-14-7 on the road – three shy of the franchise record for wins -- and that includes a pair of wins at Chicago this season, when the Coyotes beat the Blackhawks twice in a seven-day period – 4-1 in Nov. 29 and 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 5. Over the last three seasons under Tippett, the Coyotes are and impressive 63-42-18 on the road and 4-1-1 at the United Center.

"We play a very similar game both home and on the road," Tippett said. "We are a hard-working, tight-checking, grind-it-out team -- and sometimes that's the best answer in the road.

"There will be great energy in the building, but this is the fun time to play. You love to go in there and play in that atmosphere like that, just like our atmosphere at home was excellent. But the game is played on the ice, not in the stands. The energy in the building is great. but we still have to go in there and play well and do what it takes to win."

Three players who were hurt or shaken up in Game 2 didn't take part in Monday's practice – center Martin Hanzal, winger Lauri Korpikoski and goalie Mike Smith. Both Hanzal and Korpikoski left the game with apparent lower-body injuries, while Smith took a shot to the head from Chicago center Andrew Shaw and – after spending several minutes on the ice – continued to finish the game.

Hanzal and Korpikoski are both important forwards for the Coyotes and play a variety of roles. But the status of Smith, who won 38 games this season has been Phoenix's most important player all season, is of utmost concern.

Tippett had no interest in fielding questions on their conditions or status for Tuesday.

"Our health is just fine," he said. "We have everyone under evaluation and that's where we're at. That's not a concern to us."

Quote of the Day

I just think about how much it hurts. The feelings aren't going to go away, probably never. It's just something that sticks with you for a long time.

— San Jose forward Logan Couture to The Canadian Press on the Sharks' first-round loss to the Kings after taking a 3-0 series lead