The Phoenix Coyotes haven’t won the war, but they did win the battle beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference best-of-seven matchup.
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner at 9:29 sending the sellout crowd of 17,138 home happy.
“We just said that somebody’s got to be the hero,” Hanzal explained after the game. “…and then you had that moment, you score the goal, it was just a great feeling.”
The Hawks scored first when Jonathan Toews, back after missing the past 22 games with a concussion, beat Mike Smith in front of the net at the 4:04 mark of the first period. Patrick Kane and Johnny Oduya assisted on the play.
Chicago took the 1-0 lead into intermission before Phoenix answered the call in second quarter at both ends of the ice and they did it without leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata who left with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
Taylor Pyatt tied it at one on the assist from Daymond Lankow and just over ten minutes later the ‘Yotes took the lead on Antoine Vermette’s blast a few feet past the blue line.
Smith and the Phoenix defense stepped up killing a Chicago power play and took a 2-1 lead into the final period.
Phoenix clung to a 2-1 lead and moments after Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville pulled goalie Corey Crawford in the final minute, defenseman Brent Seabrook knocked in a rebound with just 14 seconds to play in regulation to tie it up and send it into overtime.
The Coyotes out hit the Blackhawks 48-22.
“You hope it plays a role in the series as it progresses,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “We have a purpose. We want to be physical in this series.”
Smith saved 43 shots in the win.
“It was a tough game,” Smith explained. “They’re a good team. I could have gone either way, but tonight we got lucky.”
Game 2 is Saturday night at Jobbing.com Arena before the series shifts back to Chicago for Games 3 and 4.