CHICAGO — For the sixth time in their last two postseason series, the Chicago Blackhawks took the ice with their season in the balance. For most of it, they did nearly everything possible to extend it another day.
And then it came crashing to a halt.
Despite the Blackhawks dominating early in almost every imaginable way, the Coyotes won Game 6 at the United Center by a 4-0 score, winning their first-ever postseason series 4-2. The Blackhawks were sent home after the first round for the second straight year.
Mike Smith was brilliant between the pipes with his first career playoff shutout, making 39 saves and stealing the game for his team especially early. He was backed up by goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Gilbert Brule, Antoine Vermette and Kyle Chipchura.
The Hawks controlled every aspect of the game except the scoreboard, outshooting the Coyotes 28-8 through two periods. But when Hawks captain Jonathan Toews was tagged with an interference call while trying to stay onside during the second period, the Coyotes made good on the chance.
Ekman-Larsson sent a blast from the point through traffic and by the Hawks’ Corey Crawford, and the Coyotes had the unlikely one-goal edge at the 13:14 mark of the second.
Smith, meanwhile, was near-miraculous in the net, making saves on his rear and diving forward while losing his stick and denying every golden opportunity the Hawks thought they had. Then Brule made it an even steeper hill to climb early in the third, taking a feed from Kyle Chipchura and shooting high past Crawford for the 2-0 lead at the 2:24 mark.
Then came the crushing blow: A Jimmy Hayes check into the boards that precipitated a five-minute major penalty at the 8:47 mark of the third. That left the Hawks shorthanded while attempting to survive, and they couldn’t hold up.
Vermette scored near the end of the power play, making it 3-0 and putting the Hawks on the verge of first-round elimination for the second straight season. Chipchura added an unassisted tally shortly thereafter to all but seal the Hawks’ fate.
The Hawks were incredibly dominant in nearly every facet during the first period of Game 6 but emerged in a 0-0 tie with the Coyotes, who simply had to be happy to get out alive.
The Hawks outshot the Coyotes 16-2, with the visitors requiring nearly seven minutes to record a shot on goal. By then, Brendan Morrison and Dave Bolland had chances on the doorstep, and the returning Andrew Shaw couldn’t finish a gorgeous feed from Patrick Kane on a rush.
Moments after that, Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made another brilliant save on a Jimmy Hayes blast off a feed from Marcus Kruger. The teams had one power play apiece in the first, with the Coyotes failing to get a shot off during their two-minute advantage.
Shaw returned to the Hawks’ lineup following his three-game suspension after a Game 2 collision with Smith. Brandon Saad made way for fellow rookie Shaw in the lineup, a healthy scratch after playing in the last two games.