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Hanzal's OT Goal Earns Acclaim from All Over

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALEMartin Hanzal's cell phone was being inundated Thursday night. It was a digital hero's welcome.

Martin Hanzal
Center - PHX
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 6 | +/-: 0

GLENDALE – Martin Hanzal's cell phone was being inundated Thursday night. It was a digital hero's welcome.

There were atta-boys from Canada, way-to-gos from across America and plenty of traffic from Pisek in the Czech Republic, where the sun was rising on Friday as he was putting the Chicago Blackhawks to bed. His deflection goal past goalie Corey Crawford 9:29 into overtime reverberated around the world.

"My dad called me. He was getting ready for work when we won and he called to congratulate me," said Hanzal, who notched the first OT game-winner he could remember in his career to give the Coyotes a 3-2 win and a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. "I heard from a lot of friends, a few countries. A lot of people watching, I guess."

But Hanzal didn't have to go that far to find pats on the back. All around the Phoenix dressing room, teammates were only too happy to gush over the team's quiet giant.

On the Phoenix Coyotes' top forward line, the roles are pretty clearly defined. Radim Vrbata scores the goals. Ray Whitney is in charge of playmaking with eye-popping assist passes.

Hanzal does everything else. And the dirtier the job, the more likely you are to find him.

"Marty is hands-down our unsung hero," captain Shane Doan said. "He doesn't get any of the attention he deserves. Outsiders don't notice him. But the guys in this room know he's probably our most valuable forward.

A glance at the Game 1 stat sheet said it all when, as usual, Hanzal carpet-bombed the stat sheet with his versatility: Six shots on goal. Eight of his team's 48 hits, three blocked shots. He killed penalties, clogged the middle on the Phoenix power play, took 10 faceoffs and chased Chicago's skilled and speedy forwards all over Arena for more than 17 minutes.

With Vrbata injured on the game's first shift and Whitney limited to one shot by the Blackhawks, Hanzal added another more elusive stat to the pile – one game-winning goal. He won only three of his 10 faceoffs but he won the one that counted; following an icing, he won a draw back to Rostislav Klesla, who fired wide from the left point. The puck went all the way around to the right point, where Adrian Aucoin fired a shot-pass that Hanzal tipped into the net to give Phoenix – 14.2 seconds away from winning in regulation before Brent Seabrook tied the game – a happy ending.

It was Hanzal's first goal in 24 games and only his third goal since Christmas. But Thursday, only one goal mattered, and it was his.

"We said before we went out (for overtime) that someone's got to be the hero," he said. "It was my first overtime goal and to end the game like that is amazing. Everyone is jumping on you and you know you've done something big."

Playing in a division where he has to lock horns with the likes of Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar and San Jose's Joe Thornton 18 times a year, even a bull like Hanzal can wear down. His 34 points don't seem like a lot one a line with a 35-goal scorer (Vrbata) and a 53-assist man (Whitney), but there is a reason those surgeons have room to operate.

"He makes that line go -- and that's a legitimate No. 1 line -- because he creates so much space," Doan said. "On top of that, he's physical and hard to play against and locking up their opponent's big guy. He has the whole other side mad at him, but he's 6-5, 240 pounds and there's not a lot you can do to him."

In the end, Hanzal's goal got him back to even in plus-minus for the night, but he gave his teammates the plus-one they desperately needed. A loss at home after giving up the tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation would have been devastating to a franchise trying hoping to flush 25 years of frustration down the Zamboni drain.

"There were a lot of happy people in this room when he got such a big goal," Doan said. "He does some many little things, and to get credit for something that big … he deserves the spotlight."

These are good times for Hanzal. He became a father for the first time three months ago, and a proud papa has shown off Marty Jr. a few times in the dressing room, tucked inside his arms. He forgot to get the game-winning puck as a souvenir for his son, but he will rely on the Internet to help convey a great memory when he gets older.

"I'll tell him now, but he won't get it," Hanzal said. "He can watch it on YouTube in five years."

Author: Jerry Brown | Correspondent

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