That closed door to the visitors’ locker room at the United Center made no difference, because the noise on the other side could not be contained. As the Phoenix Coyotes arrived from the ice, they howled and roared and screamed and who can blame them?
Lightly-raced in hockey’s strenuous postseason, the league’s orphans came into an Original Six enclave and shocked the Blackhawks twice, the latest being Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime victory to snare a 3-1 lead in a Western Conference Quarterfinal that could end Saturday night in Arizona.
Mikkel Boedker skated in on Chicago’s net and, with Nick Leddy closely attached, shoved the puck one-handed through goalie Corey Crawford just 2:15 into sudden death. On Tuesday night, Boedker broke a tie in extra time from too sharp an angle on Crawford’s right. This night, Boedker, though he required no introduction, supplied the silencer from Crawford’s doorstep.
That is so typical of these desert foxes. Whatever it takes. The Coyotes are not elegant, but they are efficient. The Blackhawks would seem to possess more skill, but we’ve been saying that for a week, and if not for a miraculous comeback in Game 2, they could be four and out already.
The Blackhawks tried one of those rousing reversals again. After Phoenix snapped a scoreless scrum with two scores 44 seconds apart in the third period, the Blackhawks responded with goals by -- speaking of lightly-raced -- Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik. The latter came at 18:34, with Crawford heading for the bench, and it created bedlam among the 22,111 attendees. Fans stood, began yelling “HOS-SA, HOS-SA” for the fallen star. Surely, the Blackhawks could not lose again at home.
“But now we have to go back there and play our best game and we have to win,” said Duncan Keith. “Frustrating. They’re very frustrating to play against.”
The Blackhawks exerted pressure from the start; Phoenix did not record its first shot until the 10th minute. But Mike Smith was a fortress in the visitors’ goal. Without Raffi Torres around to taunt, the crowd booed Smith every time he moved. Of course, fans were doing that even before Torres accosted Hossa Tuesday night.
There was one a fight of note to report: Brandon Bollig went with Paul Bissonnette. Each received a five-minute major, but the Coyote combatant also took a game misconduct for a wardrobe malfunction—he failed to fasten his jersey to his pants.
Crawford stoned Ray Whitney on a solo in the second period, a favor Smith returned on Frolik shortly thereafter. Dave Bolland appeared to jam the puck through Smith in the next couple seconds, but officials ruled that the whistle had blown. Guess what a majority of fans thought of that decision? Shots were 23-10 for the Blackhawks after 40 minutes, but they don’t award points for territorial advantage. However, hits were 50-32 for Phoenix at game’s conclusion, and all that bumping might be leaving bruises.
Certainly, the Blackhawks are not free-wheeling it as is their preferred style. They have played six consecutive overtime playoff games, a league record. But one was a defeat in an extended Game 7 last April. It is April again, and the Blackhawks are on the clock.