After earning a split in the first two games in Arizona, the sixth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks will try to take their first lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals when they host the Phoenix Coyotes in tonight's Game 3 at United Center.
The Blackhawks lost the opener by a 3-2 score in overtime, but rebounded with an OT victory of their own in Game 2. Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago with 5.5 seconds left in regulation on Saturday and Bryan Bickell capitalized on a turnover at the 10:36 mark of the extra session to lift the Blackhawks to the 4-3 decision at Jobing.com Arena.
Game 2 marked the second time Chicago was able to tie the game in the final 15 seconds of regulation. In Thursday's opener, Brent Seabrook tallied the equalizer with 14.2 seconds left in the third period, but the Coyotes won in OT on Martin Hanzal's tally.
This time, the Blackhawks would not be denied as they fired 50 shots at Mike Smith, including 11 in overtime. Phoenix center Antoine Vermette passed the puck behind his own net to Adrian Aucoin, but the subsequent pass along the left boards deflected to Viktor Stalberg. He passed to the slot for Bickell, who buried his second goal of the night.
Corey Crawford made 30 saves for the win and the Blackhawks also got a goal from Brandon Bollig to help even the series at one win apiece.
"We learn in the playoffs that always the next game is always the biggest," Sharp said. "We'll enjoy this and be ready for the next one."
Chicago, which will also host Game 4 on Thursday, had a strong 27-8-6 record on home ice this season.
Phoenix, who are coming off their first-ever Pacific Division title, was 20-14-7 on the road during the regular season.
Vermette scored twice in the losing effort on Saturday and Raffi Torres had the other goal for the third-seeded Coyotes. Mike Smith stopped 46-of-50 shots in the hard-luck loss.
"We never want to give up a game-winner the way we did, but at the same time it's just one game," Phoenix forward Shane Doan said. "We have to go in there and win one of those."
The game turned ugly with 12:49 left in the second when Chicago center Andrew Shaw was given a game misconduct and five-minute penalty for colliding his left shoulder to the helmet of Smith. The Phoenix netminder went to play the puck behind the net when the collision took place. Smith crumpled to the ice and received medical attention, but he continued to play and is expected to start tonight.
Shaw, meanwhile, had a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday and could be suspended for tonight.
The Coyotes lost forwards Hanzal (lower body) and Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) to injuries in Game 2 and both players are questionable for tonight. Losing Hanzal for any amount of time would be a big blow for Phoenix, as the 25-year-old Czech centers the club's top line between wingers Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney.
The Blackhawks and Coyotes have never met in the postseason and the Coyotes won three of the four regular-season meetings, including one in a shootout.