Last year, the Phoenix Coyotes made quite the late-season impression, proving they were more than just a cute Cinderella story during some intense games against the Chicago Blackhawks. This time around, the roles seem slightly reversed, as the Yotes hold a semi-healthy lead in front of the Western Conference bubble pack while the Hawks are fighting for their playoff lives.
The Coyotes and Blackhawks wrestled to a 3-3 tie through regulation and overtime, forcing a shootout. Phoenix came in having won the last three skills competitions between the two teams, so it seemed like the ball was in Dave Tippett’s court.
It was not to be, though, as the ‘Hawks earned their fourth straight win to enter the trade deadline on a high note thanks to the play of their elite captain Jonathan Toews.
Chicago 4, Phoenix 3 (OT)
Toews scored two goals in regulation and the game’s only shootout goal to win a big one for his team. Toews staked the ‘Hawks to a 2-0 first period lead, but Keith Yandle (one goal, one assist) and Ray Whitney (two primary assists) powered a 3-1 Phoenix surge in the second to tie the game 3-3.
Ilya Bryzgalov produced a nice effort in defeat, stopping 38 out of Chicago’s 41 shots. Corey Crawford ended up with his 22nd win of the season by making 25 out of 28 saves and shutting out the Coyotes in the shootout.
This win moves the Blackhawks into a virtual four-way tie with the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators at 72 points. The Stars, Blackhawks and Wild sport matching 33-23-6 records, so each team has a claim for sixth place in the West.
Phoenix is four points ahead of that pack with 76, but they’ve played in two more games and have the same amount of wins (33). They’re still fairly comfortable relatively speaking, although they’ve lost three games in a row now.
Naturally, we’ll keep you updated as both conferences enjoy wild and wacky runs for the last playoff spots.