Feb 082013

By Brad Gardner

The Chicago Blackhawks earned their seventh road win of the 2013 season with a 6-2 victory in Glendale over the Phoenix Coyotes. Patrick Kane scored a pair of power play goals in the first period and Ray Emery had another reliable outing in net as the Blackhawks improved to 9-0-2 on the year.

The game marked the first time that Raffi Torres would be on the ice against the Blackhawks after his high hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 playoffs knocked the Hawks star winger out of action for months.

Retribution was quick against Raffi Torres, who answered the bell on his first shift of the game. Jamal Mayers initiated the scrap as soon as he stepped off the bench, and Torres was ready for him. Both players let fly a slew of punches and landed a few before they hit the ice. The scrap took place right in front of the Chicago bench, and if the offensive explosion that took place in the first period is any indication, the scrap served as a huge boost.

Bucking a recent trend of falling behind early, the Blackhawks got on the board first at the 8:17 mark of the first period. Viktor Stalberg punched home a one-timer on a dish from Andrew Shaw, who made a nice chip play at the blue line to get in against the defense.

The Blackhawks continued to carry play after the goal, but it was during a late period run of Phoenix penalties that the Hawks began to take advantage of their offensive zone pressure. Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s interference penalty at 13:52, then a Derek Morris cross-checking penalty less than a minute later, put the Blackhawks on their first of two 5-on-3 advantages late in the opening period.

Patrick Kane scored twice in the period, once on each of the 5-on-3 advantages with nearly identical goals from the door step. His first was scored on a scramble in from Mike Smith’s net. Patrick Sharp could not stuff it home, but he was able to dig the puck out from under the Coyotes’ goaltender and Jonathan Toews was able to sweep it over to an open Kane for the Hawks’ second goal of the game.

Dave Bolland cashed in on a sweet set-up from Kane a couple minutes later to extend the lead. Kane entered the zone, began a spin-o-rama, but paused mid-spin to make the centering pass. Bolland made no mistake on the one-timer, registering his third goal of the season against Mike Smith.

Before the puck was dropped following the Bolland goal, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle drew the fourth consecutive Phoenix penalty of the period for yapping at the officials. After a Zbynek Michalek tripping penalty a half minute later, Kane pushed the Blackhawks’ lead to 4-0 by converting on a crossing pass from Sharp.

The Coyotes managed just four shots in the first period, while they gave up four goals against on 17 shots from the Blackhawks.

Mike Smith remained in the net for the Coyotes to start the second period in spite of the lopsided finish to the first period.

The scales began to even out on the penalty count in the second period, with Brandon Saad going off for an interference penalty. It appeared as if the Hawks might go down two men when Marcus Kruger hooked Ekman-Larsson, but the referees called a coincidental embellishment and the Coyotes remained on the 5-on-4 advantage.

That still provided enough space for Radim Vrbata to skate the puck to the center of the ice and send a slap shot from the blue line. Martin Hanzal provided the net front presence, limiting Emery’s view of the shot and tipping it past the Blackhawks’ netminder, who didn’t have a chance against the big guy in front.

The Coyotes would get no closer, as the Blackhawks added two quick goals later in the second period to head to the second intermission with a 6-1 lead. Toews scored the fifth goal when he deked Ekman-Larsson out of his skates and beat Smith five-hole. The dynamic rush from the Blackhawks captain was the final nail in the coffin and took all the wind out of the sails of the home team.

Less than three minutes later, Bryan Bickell one-timed a puck underneath Smith, who gave up his sixth goal against on 22 Chicago shots. Stalberg got the assist as he collected a loose puck, which had been fumbled by Yandle behind the home team’s net, and made the centering feed to set up Bickell’s tally.

Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera entered the game after the sixth goal and was able to hold down the fort through the rest of the game, stopping all 11 shots he saw in his 23-plus minutes.

The Coyotes offense was unable to threaten Emery very much in the third, although they did manage a second goal with 1:25 left in the game. Sheldon Brookbank failed to clear the zone and then had the puck chipped past him when he tried to step up at the blue line. Kyle Chipchura got the puck towards the net and Raffi Torres skated in late and found the loose puck for the late goal.

Game Notes:

Ray Emery is now 3-0 on the season after turning in another solid performance. Although he was not challenged nearly as much as he was in Calgary, Emery was steady. He stopped 22 of 24 shots, with the late Phoenix goal souring an otherwise sterling performance.

– The Blackhawks were 2 for 9 on power play opportunities, with both conversions coming with the two man advantage. The Hawks earned three of those power plays in the third period, but by that time Joel Quenneville was content to reward some of his role players with special teams time.

– In addition to the string of poor penalties in the first period, two of the Coyotes’ leaders spent time in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. Keith Yandle earned the 2-minute penalty after Bolland’s goal and then was hit with a 10-minute misconduct when he got out of the box following Kane’s second goal. Shane Doan also took an unsportsmanlike for a third period conversation he had with a referee.

Nick Leddy appeared to catch a puck or stick to the face on the final goal and left the game a little early. No word on his status from Quenneville post-game.

– Three stars of the game: 3. Ray Emery (22 saves on 24 shots)… 2. Patrick Sharp (3 assists)… 1. Patrick Kane (2 goals, 1 assist)

– The Hawks have two days off before a 7pm start on Sunday in Nashville.

Brad Gardner

In addition to the game write-ups for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad Gardner will provide here this season, he covers the Blackhawks and serves as the Western Conference Editor at Hockey’s Future.

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