Chicago had their captain back on the ice, and Jonathan Toews quickly made his presence known with a first period goal. But a sloppy second period ended with the Blackhawks trailing 2-1 on the road.
A frustrating third period saw more struggles from the Hawks in the offensive zone until Brent Seabrook, with an empty net behind him and 14.2 seconds left in regulation, scored an incredible game-tying goal.
Unfortunately the momentum couldn’t carry Chicago to victory, as the Hawks lost 3-2 in overtime.
Seabrook was a beast all night, leading the team in hits (6), tied for the team lead in shots on goal (7) and tied for the team lead with two blocked shots. He was also the Blackhawks ice time leader (31:10).
Coach Joel Quenneville revisited the experiment of skating Patrick Kane at left wing with Toews and Marian Hossa. At times, the overloaded top line wasn’t as effective as the team would hope. But at the end of regulation, Toews and Kane had two points each; Kane had an assist on both goals, while Toews had the opening goal and assisted on Seabrook’s game-tying tally.
Toews skated 24:29 in the game (29 shifts) and was clearly a target of the Coyotes’ physical play all night.
Corey Crawford had a really strong game. He held up against a strong late push from Phoenix at the end of the first period and made a number of other critical saves throughout the game. He made 31 saves against 34 shots on the night, and looked more like the Crawford that was so good last April than the guy who lost the net to Ray Emery earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Patrick Sharp was effectively worthless on a line with Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg, who weren’t nearly as effective as a second line group as they had been recently. Kruger and Stalberg were both minus-two in the game.
Niklas Hjalmarsson had an especially rough second period that included gift-wrapping the Coyotes’ first goal by playing a puck that was about to be frozen by Crawford. Hjalmarsson was minus-two in the game.
Hjalmarsson wasn’t alone in leaving a lot to be desired, though. The Hawks’ entire fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette appeared to be too slow all night and struggled to get control of the puck, much less clear the defensive zone.
Sean O’Donnell also had a tough evening, though his hand pass to Crawford shouldn’t have ended up in the back of the net. And Johnny Oduya struggled to clear the puck all night.
Not surprisingly, both teams looked awful on the power play. Chicago failed on four attempts, and Phoenix did nothing with two “advantages.”
For Phoenix, the concern moving forward is with their leading scorer from the regular season. Radim Vrbata skated only 45 seconds in the game before he was hammered into the boards by Andrew Shaw. Vrbata left the bench and did not return to the game.
At the end of the night, the Blackhawks received bad performances from most of the bottom half of their roster and still took the Coyotes to overtime in their barn. They’ll need to play better for 60 minutes to advance to the second round, but they certainly gave Phoenix all they could handle in the first game of the series.