It took a repeat performance by Mikkell Boedker in yet another overtime to put the Phoenix Coyotes a victory away from winning their opening-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Boedker scored in overtime for the second straight game his only two career post-season goals — and the Coyotes took command of the tight-as-can-be playoff by beating the Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night.
All four games have gone to overtime and the Coyotes lead 3-1 headed back to Arizona for Game 5 on Saturday (7 p.m. MT), where they hope to wrap it up.
Boedker got control of a loose puck, skated ahead of defenceman Nick Leddy on a mini breakaway and shovelled the puck through goalie Corey Crawford's legs at 2:15 of the extra period.
"Actually, I don't know how it slid in, but I'm happy it did. It was a bobbled puck and I felt like I got to it first and I kind of hit it and it bounced over the D-man's stick and I was partially alone there for a little bit, at least," Boedker said.
"It went in and it's an amazing feeling."
The Coyotes came into the United Center, one of the toughest buildings in the NHL, and won two in a row. They beat a Chicago team missing star winger Marian Hossa, who'd been knocked out of Game 3 by a thunderous shoulder-to-head hit from Raffi Torres. Torres has been suspended indefinitely, pending a scheduled hearing with the league Friday.
The Blackhawks tied it in the closing seconds of regulation for the third time in the series by pulling Crawford for an extra attacker with Michael Frolik scoring with 1:26 left to make it 2-2. Phoenix had gone up 2-0 with two goals 44 seconds apart in the third before the Blackhawks rallied.
Once into overtime, the Coyotes responded again.
'I was just playing it like a breakaway. He came in and I don't know how … I can't imagine how it went through there.' — Blackhawks G Corey Crawford on Thursday's winning goal
"We're used to it now. We've done it for four games. Obviously we would like for it not to go into overtime, that's probably what everybody would prefer, but overtime happens," Boedker said. "We're just happy we've won three of them."
On Tuesday night, Boedker had scored on a tough angle from the left side, beating Crawford in a 3-2 victory. This time he came right at the goalie.
"I was just playing it like a breakaway. He came in and I don't know how … I can't imagine how it went through there. Just brutal," Crawford said.
The Coyotes finished strong in the regular season to win a division title and have carried it over.
"We've been preparing for tight playoffs like this for well over a month, well, all year, but the last month we've been preparing saying, 'We're going to play tight games, how are we going to respond in tight games, how are we going to deal with adversity,"' Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "This has been going on for a long time for us. Our players in here, I think they're thriving under the pressure, I think that's great for our group."
The Blackhawks had one strong offensive sequence to start overtime but couldn't manage a shot against Mike Smith, who finished with 30 saves. And then Boedker responded for the second time in three nights. Phoenix won despite having only 19 shots on goal.
"We were in their zone, had some momentum, had some pressure and some one-on-one," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
"It was a tough break at the end again. Kind of comparable to the last game. Brutal ending. I think both games ended kind of on a tough note for us. … We liked our chances in overtime. It's a tough road ahead of us."
Shane Doan and Taylor Pyatt scored 44 seconds apart to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in the third. But Brendan Morrison, making his first appearance in the series, scored to make it 2-1 and send what had been a quiet crowd into a frenzy.
Doan stripped the puck from Johnny Oduya, made a nice cross-ice pass to Ray Whitney and then scored on a rebound of Whitney's shot at 7:03 of the third. The Coyotes struck again quickly when Antoine Vermette got the puck near the boards and made a nice feed to Pyatt.
Phoenix dominated play early in the final period. After being outshot 23-10 through the first two periods, the Coyotes had eight shots on goal to just one for the Blackhawks in the first 10 minutes. But then Morrison scored on a long slap shot from the right circle that appeared to hit a Coyotes' stick before flying past Smith's glove and into the goal. And then Frolik tied it up.
The Blackhawks were already without rookie forward Andrew Shaw, who drew a five-game suspension for knocking Smith to the ice in Game 2. And there is no timetable for the return of Hossa, who led the team in regular-season points with 77.