By Tracey Myers in Glendale, Ariz.
It wouldn't have been stunning if the Chicago Blackhawks would've been edgy and nervous entering the third period on Saturday night. They were down 1-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes, down 3-1 to them in their Western Conference quarter-final series, and their season was on the brink.
But coach Joel Quenneville said there was no panic, no agitation, no worry in the Blackhawks locker room. They were calm, looking forward to the third period. And beyond, if necessary. (And during this series, isn't that just status quo?)
That calm paid off in the form of disciplined hockey, a tying goal and eventually the winner. And now the Blackhawks, who are still down 3-2 to the Coyotes, are feeling some momentum as they travel home.
The Blackhawks, to a player, considered Game 5 their best of this series thus far, and it was evident down the stretch of their 2-1 overtime - shocking, I know - victory over the Coyotes on Saturday. Unlike the gaffes they committed and the bad goals they allowed in the previous two games, the Blackhawks were smart in Game 5. They were careful with the puck, still taking shots at Mike Smith - 38 in all - and keeping their heads.
And just 2:44 into this overtime, Jonathan Toews scored the game-winner and sent the series back to Chicago.
Quenneville was impressed with his group's placid nature.
"It was positive, everybody was excited about being there. When we went out for the third period, the locker room was great," he said. "I thought we played our best game of the series tonight. Even though we were down 1-0 going into the third, we liked the way we were playing. We stuck with it, kept talking about shots, shots and traffic."
Perhaps it's the old sports adage: when you have nothing to lose, you play loose. The calm was there from the forwards to goaltender Corey Crawford, who got a necessary rebound game after allowing bad goals to end the two previous games. Quenneville called him "rock solid."
"I felt good. I was just trying to carry over the feelings of the last couple of games, the things I did right," Crawford said. "Our guys played a really solid game. I didn't have to do too much. Some key saves here or there, but that's a good performance for us."
And it's a good confidence booster, too. The Blackhawks have been channeling last season's near-incredible comeback against Vancouver. For arguably the first time in this series, the Blackhawks were a little more patient than the Coyotes. They didn't commit many errors, on which the Coyotes have pounced all series. They're feeling good as they head home, feeling good about their chances of finally winning one of these games at the United Center.
And they hope they're back in the desert again really soon.
"We got to come out and have a strong effort in Chicago," Brent Seabrook said. "We've got to push it to the seventh [game] and try to come back here. But at the same time we're not looking too far past the next game. We've got to come out with a good start and play a full 60 [minutes]."
Tracey Myers reports for CSN Chicago. Follow her @TramyersCSN
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