CHICAGO – An unlikely duo helped the Phoenix Coyotes extend their winning streak to a season-high six games.
Stay-at-home defenceman Adrian Aucoin scored the deciding goal in the shootout for the second straight game to give Phoenix a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Meanwhile, backup goalie Jason LaBarbera made 28 saves through overtime, then stopped two of three Blackhawks in the shootout in his ninth start and 12th appearance this season.
Phoenix’s Robert Lang also connected in the shootout, and Radim Vrbata scored late in the second period for the Coyotes, whose streak is their longest since they won seven in a row midway through the 2006-07 season. Phoenix is 9-2-0 in its last 11.
“We’re trying to push this thing as far as we can,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “There’s a push before the (Olympic) break and a push after.”
Aucoin, a 36-year-old former Blackhawk, had connected on his only previous shootout attempt this season, in the 10th round of the Coyotes’ 1-0 win at Nashville on Tuesday night. On Friday, Tippett called on Aucoin to shoot in the third round, with the extra session tied at 1.
“If you look at the stats, he’s 1-for-1,” Tippett said. “So why wouldn’t you go with your highest percentage guy.”
“Now I’m nervous,” Aucoin said. “The first one was luck. Now it’s actually a streak.”
With the win, surging Phoenix improved to 75 points and moved past Los Angeles into fourth place in the Western Conference.
LaBarbera backstopped the victory.
“Jason was awesome,” Aucoin said. “Our goaltending has been go-to all year.”
Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes’ No. 1 goalie, got the night off and is expected to start Saturday in Dallas. He was in the net in Phoenix’s shootout win over Nashville, making 25 saves through overtime and nine of 10 in the shootout
LaBarbera was almost as good against Chicago.
“I thought I was getting to my spots early,” LaBarbera said. “I got in position to make myself big and the puck was hitting me. Our ‘D’ did a great job, especially early, clearing rebounds.”
Colin Fraser scored in the first period for the Blackhawks, who have lost three straight for the first time this season. Jonathan Toews connected for Chicago in the shootout.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with us,” Toews said. “We’ve got to find a way to use that crowd and get energy going and talk to each other on the bench and recognize our mistakes and go out there and have better shifts afterward, and we’re not doing that.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville credited the Coyotes for shutting down his team, while adding the Blackhawks needed to battle through Phoenix’s tight game plan.
“We were playing a top team and they do a lot of things well,” Quenneville said. “We have to respect what the other team can do.
“I thought going into tonight’s game it was important for us to try to get a ‘W.’ I think all year long things have been rather smooth and now it’s a good test for us to try to recapture some momentum.”
Chicago started strong on Friday, dominating the first period. But Fraser’s goal 4:46 in was the only score in the first, and was just the fourth-line centre’s second this season and first since Dec. 29.
After LaBarbera made a pad save on Duncan Keith’s drive from the top of the slot, Fraser fired the rebound over LaBarbera’s glove from the right circle.
Fraser had been a healthy scratch for the first time this season in the Blackhawks’ previous game, a 3-2 home loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night.
The Blackhawks missed on two point-blank chances late in the first. LaBarbera stopped Troy Brouwer from the right edge of the crease with 2 minutes left. About a minute later, John Madden misfired from the same spot, despite plenty of open net.
Vrbata was credited with a power-play goal with 3:17 left in the second that tied it at 1, and came moments after LaBarbera stopped Chicago’s Marian Hossa on a short-handed breakaway. Vrbata fired low shot from above the left circle with Petr Prucha parked in front of the crease. The puck appeared to deflect before flipping past Huet.
Chicago killed a double-minor high-sticking penalty to Cam Barker early in the scoreless third, allowing just one shot during the advantage.
Phoenix’s Zbynek Michalek was sent off for tripping Chicago’s Dave Bolland at 4:13 of overtime. LaBarbera made sharp saves on Keith and a rebound by Patrick Kane with 29 seconds left.
NOTES: The crowd of 22,169 was the Blackhawks’ largest this season and their 79th straight sellout. … Phoenix RW Scottie Upshall missed his fourth game with a lower-body injury and is out indefinitely. … Chicago D Jordan Hendry and RW Tomas Kopecky were healthy scratches, as were Phoenix D Anders Eriksson and C Joel Perrault.