Four months ago on this day, the Phoenix Coyotes played their first playoff game of the 2011-2012 season. The Coyotes earned the number three seed by virtue of winning the Pacific Division. They would face off in a best of seven series against the sixth seed Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Quarter Finals.
April 12, 2012 marked the third consecutive year the Coyotes had made the postseason and the second out of those three years that they opened the postseason in Glendale. Jobing.com Arena was packed with a sellout crowd of 17,138 hockey fans; the majority dressed in white. The Coyotes were 1-1 in the opening game of a series and 1-4 at home during the previous two playoff seasons. The Coyotes had not won a home playoff game since April 15, 2010.
The scoring opened up just over four minutes into the game when Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews snuck a backhander past Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith to make the game 1-0 Chicago. The score would remain unchanged throughout period one.
Period two belonged to the Coyotes. Taylor Pyatt was the first Coyote to score, in the 2012 postseason, on a wrist shot past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford 7:38 into the second period. Antoine Vermette would score with about two and a half minutes remaining in the period to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
For 18 minutes and 57 seconds of third period play, there was no scoring. With 1:03 remaining, Chicago pulled their goaltender in order to play the final minute with an extra skater. The Blackhawks peppered Mike Smith throughout the final minute as the Coyotes players were unable to clear the puck out of their zone. With just 14.2 seconds remaining, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook tipped a Patrick Kane rebound past Smith to tie the game at two apiece. The crowd and Coyotes players were crushed. The clock ran out and overtime was to follow. This was the first overtime playoff game for the Coyotes under head coach Dave Tippett.
With 10:37 remaining in overtime, Coyotes center Martin Hanzal won a face-off back to defenseman Rusty Klesla. Klesla took a shot at the net but missed wide sending the puck caroming around the boards. The puck was held in the Chicago zone by Adrian Aucoin, who then shot the puck toward the Chicago net. The puck was tipped by Hanzal a few feet in front of the net causing the puck to change directions and find the back of the net to make it 3-2 Coyotes. Game over. The Coyotes won their first home playoff game in nearly two years. Coyotes led the series 1-0.
The Coyotes would go on to lose their next two home playoff games, to Chicago, before ultimately winning the series 4-2. This would be the first playoff series the Coyotes had ever won while in Arizona.
NOTE: The next installment of “A Look Back” will be Monday, August 13.