CHICAGO – Mike Smith refused to budge. He protected the goal as if there was a “no pucks allowed” sign dangling from around his neck.
And now, thanks to his first career postseason shutout, the Phoenix Coyotes are finally moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Smith made 39 saves, frustrating the Chicago Blackhawks by stopping shots from all angles and body positions – especially early in the game when he faced an onslaught – as the Coyotes won 4-0 Monday night to wrap up the first-round series in six games.
“He was unbelievable,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who began his career in Winnipeg in 1995 and had waited a long time to celebrate a series victory.
The Coyotes captured a first-round series for the first time since moving to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season. It is the first series triumph for the franchise since 1987, when it was still in Winnipeg as the Jets.
“It was just one of those games when pucks were hitting me, and our guys were doing a good job to get rebounds over there and tie guys up after their shots. It was just the rhythm of the game, it seemed like,” Smith said.
Or as Phoenix coach Dave Tippett described it: “The hockey gods were probably looking down on us, giving us a chance, and Smith cleaned up the rest.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in the second, and Gilbert Brule, Antoine Vermette and Kyle Chipchura had goals in the third.
The Coyotes won all three games at the United Center – Monday night’s game was the first in the series not to be decided in overtime – and now move on to play Nashville in the conference semifinals.
Smith had 229 saves in the six games.
“I don’t know what to say right now. We worked so hard, we had so many chances, and every time we had a chance and it didn’t go in, we said, ‘Keep working, we’ll get another one. It’ll go in eventually,’ ” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.
“They play well around Mike Smith, his size especially. We got so many pucks through, and they always found a way to hit him in the head, the pads or the shoulder. We didn’t get any lucky ones on him. He played great, but we didn’t find a way to beat him.”
Chicago had a 39-20 shots advantage, but after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks have been ousted two straight years in the first round.
Ekman-Larsson’s long slap shot from the top of the slot on a power play sailed by a screened Corey Crawford at 13:14 of the second period after Chicago had forced the action most of the night.
Martin Hanzal, who returned after missing three games, provided the screen for the Coyotes, who scored on their sixth shot of the game and went on the power play after an interference call against Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks had 22 shots at the time of the Coyotes’ score, but Smith was too good to crack.RANGERS DODGE ELIMINATION BY SENATORS
OTTAWA, Ontario – Brad Richards scored the go-ahead goal, and Derek Stepan had a goal and two assists as the top-seeded New York Rangers staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
The series heads back to New York on Thursday for the first Game 7 in any sport at Madison Square Garden in 17 years.
Not even the return of Daniel Alfredsson, who missed three games with a concussion, in front of the fired-up home crowd at Scotiabank Place could help the eighth-seeded Senators complete the upset.
Carl Hagelin returned to the Rangers lineup after sitting out a three-game suspension for his elbow on Alfredsson.
The Rangers broke through in the second period with three goals after going six straight periods without scoring.
Chris Neil gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the first with a power-play goal, and Jason Spezza cut it to 3-2 with 39 seconds to play in the third.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS