CHICAGO – One strong, convincing performance plus one tight shootout victory added up to four valuable points for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Radim Vrbata and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in the shootout and Mike Smith stopped Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in the tiebreaker to lead the Coyotes to a wild 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night.
Phoenix had lost two games since a 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks last Tuesday.
“Any way you look at it, to come in here twice in a week and get four points, we’ll take it,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Vrbata, Raffi Torres and Keith Yandle scored in regulation for Phoenix, which recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead. Smith finished with 32 saves.
Ekman-Larsson went first in the tiebreaker and beat Ray Emery into the right side of the net. After Toews failed to stuff the puck in at the left post, Vrbata converted a backhander. Smith then denied Hossa to give the Coyotes the victory.
The puck trickled in after Smith made the save on Hossa, but the referee ruled he had already stopped the shootout chance.
“We kind of let our guard down a little bit and got away from our game plan,” Smith said. “We regrouped in the third and came out with a big win. We got back to the way we were playing in the first. We’d been trying to make too many plays at our blue-line.”
Toews had two goals and an assist for the Blackhawks, who had won four of five. Toews has seven goals and six assists in six games. Emery replaced Corey Crawford early in the second period and stopped all 11 shots he faced before the shootout.
“We played better late in the game, but you get to that point where it’s 3-3, we’re getting chances late in the third and OT, we want to find a way to get that extra point,” Toews said.
Toews had all of his points in the second period, when the Blackhawks erased a 3-0 deficit. He sparked the comeback when he sent a wrister into the upper left corner of the net for Chicago’s first goal at 2:40. He beat Smith again when he tipped in Duncan Keith’s power-play shot seven minutes later, then set up Patrick Kane’s tying goal with a perfect pass to the right side of the net at 13:57.
It was the third consecutive multi-point game for Toews, who leads the Blackhawks with 17 goals and is tied for third on the team with 15 assists. The captain has 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) over the last 13 games.
Hossa, who is one goal shy of becoming the 85th NHL player to reach 400, had a terrific opportunity to give Chicago the lead midway through the third but was wide left on an open short-handed chance.
“Disappointed with our start but good comeback, good point,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tough start to the game, you don’t want to give them the lead, we were fortunate to get back in it.”
Chicago was coming off a six-game Western trip when Phoenix rolled into the United Center last week and cruised to a victory behind Ray Whitney’s three-point night. The Blackhawks responded by winning their next two games against the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes lost to Winnipeg and Philadelphia.
The beginning of this one resembled the Coyotes’ convincing performance last week, but the Blackhawks had all the momentum before the shootout.
Torres got Phoenix off to a fast start when he jumped on a loose puck in the middle of ice and skated with Mikkel Boedker for a perfectly executed 2-on-1 that gave the Coyotes the lead 2:35 in. Torres guided Boedker’s pass into the open left side of the net for his fourth goal.
The Coyotes killed a Chicago power play, then added to their lead with 1:47 left in the first. Duncan Keith turned the puck over deep in the Blackhawks zone, and Whitney found Vrbata, who carried the puck past Crawford before reaching around the post to slide in his team-leading 13th goal.
Yandle converted a long slapshot just 1:09 into the second, making it 3-0 and chasing Crawford from the game. Crawford finished with 13 saves.
“After the last two games, that’s what we tried to come in here and do,” Yandle said. “We were anxious get back on the ice. To get a win, that’s a huge morale boost.”
NOTES: Phoenix improved to 2-1 in the season series. The final scheduled meeting between the teams isFeb. 11 in Arizona. … Quenneville and Tippett were teammates from 1983-90 with the Hartford Whalers. … The Blackhawks have earned at least one point in 11 of 13 home games.