CHICAGO – Following his team's morning skate on Tuesday, Dave Tippett was asked why his Phoenix Coyotes play so well on the road.
"Well, it's probably because we play our road game even at home," he said, smiling at his own dry humor. "But that's the style of game we have to play is hard-checking and making sure that we're putting the work in every game. On the road, teams do tend to simplify a little bit but we've hung around in a lot of games and found a way to win a lot of games."
Seven away from Jobing.com Arena to be exact, following a 4-1 victory at the United Center on Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks (14-8-3). Chicago struggled to find its usual jump in the first game back home after the annual six-game "circus trip," and the Coyotes made them pay.
Daymond Langkow (one goal, one assist), Shane Doan (one goal, one assist), Radim Vrbata (one goal, one assist) and Ray Whitney (one goal, two assists) led the way for the Coyotes (13-7-3), who won back-to-back games for the first time since the middle of November – a span of six games, which were all alternating wins and losses.
It was also a payback game for the Coyotes, who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18 in Phoenix.
"We needed to respond, just for our own minds," Doan said. "When we're playing well as a group, we can get up the ice and pressure the puck and take away time and space to be successful. But you're not going to do that too often to (the Blackhawks). The next team that plays them, it won't be very much fun for, I'm sure."
Patrick Sharp scored his 11th goal for Chicago, but it didn't come until late in the game down by four goals. By that point, the Coyotes had already long drained the energy from the place they call the "Madhouse on Madison."
Earlier in the day, Doan was asked about that odd stretch of alternating wins and losses and what it said, if anything, about his team.
"We're resilient," he said. "Either that or we're inconsistent. We're trying to figure out which one it is."
Against Chicago, the Coyotes were dominant. They played that hard-checking, suffocating defensive style that Tippett talked about to near perfection and lulled Chicago to sleep. Then, they surprised Hawks goalie Corey Crawford (17 saves) with offensive chances in short bursts.
Phoenix also upped its record to 11-1-3 in games when the Coyotes score first, which they did when Langkow made it 1-0 late in the first with his first goal and third point since returning from an extended absence to grieve the death of his mother.
Doan pushed it to 2-0 midway through the second with his seventh goal and first in five games to put the Hawks even further in the hole.
Langkow's came off an odd bounce after he whacked at the puck from the right side of the net with Crawford appearing to make the save.
Somehow the puck eluded his grasp and slipped over the goal line underneath his right hand.
Doan blasted a one-timer from the right circle between Crawford's arm and body for a two-goal lead, which Phoenix maintained into the third.
Vrbata and Whitney then scored within the first five minutes of the third to make it 4-0 and that was all the Coyotes needed.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (24 saves) picked up the win and looked sharp, especially in the early part of the first. The Hawks came out flying to overcome the jet-lag factor that seems to accompany the first game back from a long trip and put five quick shots on goal.
Smith turned them all away and Chicago lapsed into sloppy, sluggish play – which limited their own chances and led to scoring opportunities for Phoenix. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville jumbled his forward lines looking for a spark in the last two periods, but nothing worked.
Chicago managed just two more shots on goal in the first after their opening salvo and managed just eight in the second period – with the first in that period coming halfway through.
"Scoring first tonight was important," Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent start, but they played that perfect checking game and frustrated us, it wasn't pretty. There were a couple shifts (in the third) where there looked like there was some (energy), but it wasn't enough for me."
Really, aside from the opening burst, the only Chicago showed came after the Hawks fell behind by four goals. They got into a couple of skirmishes and briefly came to life. Sharp's goal with 43 seconds left in regulation negated the shutout, but otherwise it was another disturbing blowout loss for the Hawks – who've now allowed just two goals less (78) than they've scored (80).
This was also just the second regulation loss here in 11 games for the Hawks this season.
"We were playing well there at the end of the California trip, and obviously didn't carry it over to home ice," Sharp said. "We've got to be way more consistent and put a better effort on home ice than that."
They aren't looking to blame it on this being the first game back from the long trip, either.
"I think that's an excuse, an easy way out," Sharp said. "We get excited to play in front of our fans at the United Center and our record has been good all year – so I don't think we'll use that as an excuse."