Blackhawks fail to score in season-ending loss

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Blackhawks fail to score in season-ending loss

The Chicago Blackhawks were looking for one more chance, one more game to even this series up with the Phoenix Coyotes and send it back to Glendale, where anything could happen in a Game 7.

But in Game 6 there would be no late-regulation heroics for the Blackhawks. No overtime opportunity. And ultimately, no Game 7.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a power-play goal, and Mike Smith was mesmerizing in a 39-stop shutout as the Coyotes beat the Blackhawks 4-0 to win their Western Conference quarterfinal series on Monday night. The Coyotes won the series 4-2, with three of those victories coming on United Center ice. Its the first time theyve gotten past the first round since the 1980s, when they were the Winnipeg Jets.

For the Blackhawks, it was the second first-round exit in as many seasons. And this one stung more than last season. There was no big team dismantling and no massive changes from last seasons roster. This Blackhawks team thought they had found the right pieces to win now; but against a defensive-minded team with a goaltender unwilling to give up much, the Blackhawks came up short.

We had flurries, chances. It just didnt go in, Duncan Keith said. I dont know if its the goaltender or us not bearing down or getting in front of him. Its easy to look back now. In the end, we just didnt get it done.

No, but the Blackhawks had some of their best scoring chances of this series in Game 6. There were a lot of them, too, as the Blackhawks commanded a 16-2 edge in shots after the first period; they outshot Phoenix 39-20 for the game. But Smith was impenetrable; making every stop from the ho-hum to the how-did-that-not-go-in.

Tonight Mike Smith had a special game, coach Joel Quenneville said. We come out of that first period (scoreless), that was a moral victory of them. It was the first period, the first two periods, with the quality and quantity without scoring that certainly hurt.

A few other things hurt, too. Top scorers, all of them, struggled to get points. Corey Crawford gave up two tough ones in back-to-back games. And the Blackhawks power play, which struggled all season, was a dismal 1 for 19 in this series.

Yeah, special teams are big. We talk about that all the time, Patrick Sharp said. I thought we were playing well the first two periods, they score on the power play and were chasing. It wouldve been nice to score on the power play, for sure.

And then there was Marian Hossa, or the loss of him. Quenneville said, you always look back in a series, and theres a defining situation that you can say was a turning point. That was probably the one. As for the right wings health, Quenneville said, he hasnt felt very well at all. His first day out of the house (today), hes not doing a lot. Hopefully he progresses.

But this was still ultimately about the players on the ice. The desperate Blackhawks threw everything at Smith on Monday night. He stopped it all. And when Ekman-Larsson scored in the second period, the Coyotes finally ultimately had a one-goal lead that the Blackhawks wouldnt overcome.

And as far as why the Blackhawks couldnt claim at least one game on their home ice? Nobody seemed to have an answer.

Yeah, I dont think anyone wouldve predicted that one, said Corey Crawford, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. We were so good at home through the year, I dont know. Its tough luck and some bounces didnt go our way, especially at home. I cant explain it. Its just the way it goes sometimes.

The Blackhawks had high hopes coming into this season. They thought they would contend for the Cup. And they thought they would come back, much like they did against Vancouver last spring, and force a Game 7.

They came up short.

We went through some tough times and we always seemed to come out better and stronger as a team, Jonathan Toews said. We were down 3-1 in the series, and we had no doubt wed find a way to come back and force Game 7. It got cut short a game, I guess.

Visa, PNC Bank partner for behind-the-scenes 360 degree look at Bears practice

Visa, PNC Bank partner for behind-the-scenes 360 degree look at Bears practice

Visa and PNC Bank have partnered up to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at Bears practice with a 360 degree video.

On the web, simply use your mouse to click and drag the screen to change your view. For mobile, you can tilt your device to experience the VR 360 effect.

If you're headed to the Bears-Lions game on Sunday at Soldier Field, be sure to stop by the Ultimate Tailgate on the Stadium Green from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. to experience practice from a VR headset.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

You can also sign up for the Bears PNC Visa Debit Card to receive deals on gear throughout the season by clicking here.

Big Ten to honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler with special coin during Week 5 games

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Big Ten to honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler with special coin during Week 5 games

The tributes to Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler will undoubtedly last the remainder of the season. This weekend, the Big Ten is honoring the two punters in a special way.

The conference has produced commemorative coins featuring Foltz and Sadler — who were tragically killed in a car accident in July — that will be used during all seven games this weekend.

Check it out:

The coin is a very cool tribute to Foltz, who was set to play his senior season at Nebraska, and Sadler, who wrapped up a terrific college career at Michigan State last season. Nebraska plays host to Illinois on Saturday, and Michigan State will play at Indiana.

Tributes for the two punters have been steady all season long. Foltz was honored during the Huskers' season-opener in Lincoln, and when the punt team took the field with just 10 players, opponent Fresno State joined the rest of the stadium in applause. Oregon laid flowers on the 27-yard line when it visited Lincoln two weeks ago, and Northwestern wore the same helmet stickers Nebraska has worn all year to honor Foltz. Michigan State honored Sadler last weekend during its game against Wisconsin, placing his No. 3 inside the Spartan logo at midfield.

This week, the two punters will be in the minds of everyone across Big Ten Country.