Blackhawks fall to Coyotes in OT
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org April 12, 2012 11:39PM
Updated: May 14, 2012 8:22AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jonathan Toews sat alone on the floor in the corner of the Blackhawks’ locker room, stretching his legs and keeping to himself. His return was just hours away.
Toews’ comeback from a concussion after almost two full months was as big a story line as Game 1 of the Hawks’ Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.
But there was no triumphant return for the captain despite a solid game.
The Coyotes rewrote the story.
Forward Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner at 9:29 in overtime in a 3-2 victory for the Coyotes. The Hawks committed too many turnovers and continuously failed on the power play.
“There’s some good things we can take out of this game, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win, so we’re not happy with that,” Toews said. “We’re not satisfied. We have to be prepared for Game 2.”
Defenseman Brent Seabrook tied the game at 2 with 14.2 seconds left in regulation. Toews had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane had two assists to lead the Hawks.
Forwards Taylor Pyatt and Antoine Vermette scored in the second period, which the Coyotes dominated, to erase a 1-0 lead. The Hawks often had trouble exiting their own zone. Pyatt’s goal came after the Hawks’ fourth line and defensemen Sean O’Donnell and Niklas Hjalmarsson failed to clear the zone during an extended shift, although coach Joel Quenneville argued that the Coyotes had too many players on the ice at one point.
“The official that was looking [at the play] kind of had the same lane as me, but it was clearly — [when] he touched the puck — they had six [players on the ice],” Quenneville said.
Agitator Raffi Torres (assist) also was a factor as the Coyotes established the series’ physical tone. He took numerous runs at Hawks, and Hanzal and Rostislav Klesla also got their licks in.
Toews, as expected, was a target for the Coyotes, who lost top scorer Radim Vrbata to an injury early. Klesla pushed Toews’ head down to the ice during one scrum in the first period, and veteran Shane Doan slammed him behind the Coyotes’ goal in the second.
There was more too, but it failed to slow Toews. His redirection of Kane shot’s in the waning seconds deflected off the right post and to Seabrook for the overtime-forcing goal.
“I felt as good as I possibly could,” Toews said. “It’s tough. You know it’s going to be a fast, intense and physical game.”
Mike Smith made 43 saves in another stellar effort, but the Hawks also failed to get off solid shots — or just fanned — when they had some solid opportunities. Smith, as he tends to be, was active outside his net, negating dump-ins and alleviating pressure. Toews beat him with a bad-angle shot at 4:04 in the first.
Corey Crawford had sound 31-save performance, making his best stop on a wide-open Hanzal in the first period. He also didn’t get much help from his teammates during the Coyotes’ two-goal second period.
There was no sense of panic in the Hawks’ locker room afterward, but there are plenty of things to work on. Their power play can’t go 0-for-4 and struggle to get shots off, and their puck management overall has to be more crisp.
“We came close and they scored on a point-shot deflection [to win it],” forward Patrick Sharp said. “It’s the first game. There’s things that need to be better.”