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Niemi gets sixth shutout as Chicago ends Coyotes' nine-game win streak

CHICAGO - In what Chicago coach Joel Quenneville had billed as the biggest game of the year, the Blackhawks got the kind of goaltending they'll need once the playoffs start.

Antti Niemi made 28 saves against the NHL's hottest team to get his sixth shutout and the Blackhawks ended Phoenix's nine-game winning streak Tuesday night, beating the Coyotes 2-0.

"Nobody gets those too often, so it gives you more confidence," Niemi said.

The win allowed the Blackhawks to take over the points lead in the Western Conference, where they have 99. San Jose has 98 and the Coyotes 97.

"A big win," Niemi said. "I think we played more compact on our own end than last time. Even when we were leading 2-0, we wanted to play good defence and not give them too many scoring chances."

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored second-period goals for Chicago, which beat the Coyotes for the first time in four meetings this season. Phoenix's nine-game winning streak that tied a franchise record had included a shootout win over the Blackhawks on Saturday night when Chicago twice squandered two-goal leads.

"I'm sure there's some disappointment. We've been on a good run and we've got some bounces our way and tonight we didn't generate enough to earn those bounces," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

"We all know the meaning of the game and the implications of the conference," Quenneville said. "They are on an amazing roll. That's a good hockey team ... It never looked like it would be easy. Antti persevered to the end."

Kane fired a high shot from the middle of the left circle that eluded Ilya Bryzgalov on the glove side, 1:45 into the second. It was Kane's team-high 28th goal of the season and gave him 20 points in his past 15 games.

Patrick Sharp's pass between two Coyotes was deflected but recovered by Hossa, who also scored from the left circle for a 2-0 lead at 7:16.

Niemi then stopped a point-blank rebound shot by Petteri Nokelainen to preserve the two-goal cushion and later reached around behind his back to thwart a tuck attempt by Taylor Pyatt.

In the final period with the Coyotes on a power play, Niemi again turned away a close-in shot from Pyatt.

"I thought that was a goalie win. He made some amazing saves," Quenneville said.

Phoenix's Lee Stempniak, who'd scored nine goals in nine games since being traded to the Coyotes, said the end of the winning streak means the Coyotes must start another.

"They came out and had a better start than us. They scored on their chances. We had a lot of chances, or a lot of pucks laying in the crease," he said.

"The other goalie played well and you'd like to see us bear down a little bit more and finish a couple of those chances because we certainly had ours."

The Coyotes' Shane Doan skated behind the net and scored an apparent goal to give Phoenix a first-period lead. But the score was disallowed because the Coyotes' Matthew Lombardi was in the crease.

"Teams like Chicago and San Jose, a month ago they were out of reach for us, so we know that we've played some good hockey," the Coyotes' Adrian Aucoin said. "Tonight shows we can still get better."

Notes: Chicago D Brent Seabrook returned to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion. He was levelled last Wednesday by Anaheim's James Wisniewski, who drew an eight-game suspension for the hit against his former Chicago teammate. Seabrook got a big cheer in the second when he drove Vernon Fiddler into the boards. He said there were no lingering effects from his injury ... The Winnipeg Jets, who moved to Phoenix in 1996, also won nine in a row from March 8-27, 1985. ... The Blackhawks are 5-4-2 since the Olympic break. They have 10 shutouts this season total. ... Chicago D Brian Campbell, who will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken collarbone and broken rib after a hit from Washington's Alex Ovechkin on March 14, said he has no target date for a return. There is a slim possibility he could be back, if the Blackhawks go deep into the playoffs.


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