There weren’t any names mentioned by coach Joel Quenneville. But his message was obvious.
The Blackhawks’ best players have to be better and so does their goaltending if they want to achieve something just short of miraculous against the Phoenix Coyotes.
With a 3-2 overtime victory Thursday in Game 4 at the United Center, the Coyotes are one win away from handing the Hawks their second consecutive first-round elimination. Game 5 is Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.
Mikkel Boedker scored the game-winner 2:15 into overtime after the puck got behind Hawks defensemen Nick Leddy and Sean O’Donnell. He broke in on Corey Crawford to stuff it past him.
“It’s a tough road ahead of us,” Quenneville said. “We want to look at the smaller picture and pick ourselves up after a tough ending. … We’re not happy with the way we played. Certain guys have got to pick up their game.”
Afterward, the Hawks talked about unlucky bounces and their ability to force overtime after falling behind 2-0. But constantly having to do that reveals larger issues.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane combined for one point, and Corey Crawford (16 saves) allowed the game-winner for the second straight game on a shot he knows he should save.
“I can’t even imagine how it went through there,” Crawford said.
The Hawks’ blue line has been put on its heels at times, and its mistakes and turnovers, like Johnny Oduya’s on Thursday, have been costly.
“There are certain guys who I think need to be better in our team game,” Quenneville reiterated.
Basically lost amid all the uproar over Raffi Torres’ injury-causing hit on Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw’s three-game suspension, Mike Smith’s debatable embellishment or bad officiating has been the success of the Coyotes on the ice.
The Coyotes have outworked and out-schemed the Hawks in every game and very easily could have been going for a sweep heading into Game 4 were it not for some heroics with 5.5 seconds left two games ago.
Game 4 seemed like a perfect time for the Hawks to make good on all their calls for more shots, more traffic, more puck-battle wins, more emotion, more urgency, more everything, especially with Hossa injured.
It just didn’t show up until the last 10 minutes after Shane Doan and Taylor Pyatt scored 44 seconds apart for the Coyotes.
Brendan Morrison scored when his shot deflected off Rostislav Klesla’s stick and in for the Hawks. With 86 seconds left, Michael Frolik tied it when he knocked in a rebound of Dave Bolland’s back-handed shot.
“We just kind of threw everything at [Smith] and didn’t worry too much about making mistakes,” Toews said. “When we do that, we seem to play with more flow, feel more natural out there and the bounces seem to go our way. We just have to find a way to bring that type of desperation and that type of game earlier.”
The first 50 minutes belonged to Smith (30 saves) and the standout defensive play in front of him.
“We played well enough to win,” Toews said. “But it never really felt like we took control of that game at any point.”