GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Chicago Blackhawks’ annual eviction from the Windy City got off to a promising start.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 36 saves through overtime, then stopped two shots in the shootout as the Blackhawks edged the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 Tuesday night. The Blackhawks started a six-game road trip as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus settled in for its annual extended stay in Chicago’s United Center.
“It was nice to start the road trip with a win,” Khabibulin said. “Any time you can start a long road trip with a win, that’s a good thing.”
The victory was the Blackhawks’ first in five shootouts this season.
“One of these days it was going to happen, so why not tonight,” Khabibulin said.
Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored in the shootout, and Sharp also had a goal in regulation for the Blackhawks, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Kris Versteeg also scored for Chicago.
“It’s good for us to get out on the road,” Sharp said. “We like playing at the United Center, but it’s good to be around each other quite a bit and build some chemistry.”
Zbynek Michalek netted his first of the season and Shane Doan added the tying goal for the Coyotes, who lost their third straight.
Phoenix went to overtime for the first time this season.
Toews opened the shootout with a wrist shot that went in off Ilya Bryzgalov’s stick and right skate. Sharp followed with a quick wrist shot that beat Bryzgalov low to the stick side.
“I came down and got close to the net and thought I might be able to sneak one by him,” Sharp said. “I went as low and as hard as I could and it went in.”
Khabibulin stopped Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller with a pair of easy saves for the victory.
Versteeg gave Chicago a 1-0 lead with 1:58 left in the first period on a goal that had Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky screaming. Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski twisted awkwardly in the corner of his zone and was on his knees as teammates tried clearing the puck.
Patrick Kane intercepted the clearing attempt near centre ice and skated in on a breakaway. Bryzgalov made the save but couldn’t control the rebound, which Versteeg flipped home from the right side of the crease.
Gretzky argued that the whistle should have blown because Jovanovski down and Phoenix had control of the puck, but to no avail.
“Our player was hurt and wasn’t in the play,” Gretzky said. “We just got caught a man short and that got us back on our heels.”
Gretzky had barely returned to the top step of the bench when Sharp stole the puck from Daniel Carcillo and beat Bryzgalov on a quick wrist shot with 50 seconds to go in the first.
“I don’t think he saw me standing there,” Sharp said. “I was going off for a change and saw him looking down and thought I could sneak it away from him.”
Michalek cut the lead to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 6:08 of the second.
“All I was trying to do was hit the net and it went in,” Michalek said. “There was a good screen and that’s all we need.”
Doan made it 2-2 with 14:03 to play when he one-timed Mueller’s pass past Khabibulin from the top of the left circle.
“We have to generate more offence somehow, and unfortunately we haven’t done it,” Doan said.
Notes: Chicago improved to 2-5 in overtime. … The Blackhawks had surrendered 10 goals in their previous two games. … Jovanovski was helped off the ice after Versteeg’s goal but returned to start the second period. … Only 14 seconds after Sharp’s goal, Kane was levelled by Martin Hanzal on a clean check on top of the Coyotes’ centre-ice logo. … Doan played in his 900th NHL career game, all with the Phoenix-Winnipeg franchise.