Though known as a shutdown player whose task is to stop the opponents' top line from scoring, Martin Hanzal provided the winner 9:29 into overtime to lift the Phoenix Coyotes past the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2, in Game 1 of a Western Conference quarterfinal at Jobing.com Arena.
That tally which salvaged an overall solid effort by the Coyotes was only the second OT goal in franchise history since the team moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.
Fresh off capturing their first division title since entering the NHL in 1979 as the original Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes had a shaky start, losing leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata to an injury on his first shift after taking a nasty hit on the head from Chicago's Andrew Shaw.
Phoenix then yielded tough-angle goal to the returning Jonathan Toews, putting the Blackhawks ahead, 1-0.
Without their top sniper Vrbata, the Coyotes' secondary scorers stepped up, with Taylor Pyatt and Antoine Vermette giving Phoenix a 2-1 lead in the second period.
The sixth-seeded Blackhawks would not go away easy. They put the pressure in the final minute of regulation by pulling goalie Corey Crawford and their all-out assault resulted in a tying goal from defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Hanzal, which plays center in Phoenix's most dangerous line that features Vrbata and Ray Whitney, came through for the Coyotes by redirecting a point shot 9:29 into overtime to give his team a 1-0 series lead.
The Coyotes, who entered Thursday with a 22-13-6 record as host this season, received a 43-save effort from Mike Smith.
Crawford recorded 31 saves for the Blackhawks, who have dropped six of their last eight series-opening contests.
The Coyotes and Blackhawks are meeting for the first time in the postseason.
Game 2 of this best-of-seven series will be held Saturday in Phoenix.
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