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Blackhawks end 'Circus Trip' with win against Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Blackhawks finished their annual extended "Circus Trip" with their first six-win journey ever. Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett wants to know when his team is going to stop clowning around in the first period.

Chicago's Patrick Kane, Andrew Shaw and Niklas Hjalmarsson scored in the first 11:04 amid a series of penalties, missed assignments and poor play by Phoenix. The Blackhawks then withstood a second-period rally and closed the game strong to defeat the Coyotes 5-2 Saturday at Arena.

Brandon Bollig iced the game with a third-period goal, backup goalie Antti Raanta made 31 saves and Chicago finished a 12-day, seven-game road trip with six straight wins and a 6-1-0 record, improving to an NHL-best 11-3-1 away from home.

Marian Hossa scored into an empty net with 45.4 seconds left.

"It's a long time to be away from home, but we heard it's the best 'Circus Trip' in the history of the Hawks," said Kane, who scored his 16th goal one night after his career-high 12-game scoring streak was snapped in a 2-1 shootout win against the Dallas Stars.

"If you told us before the trip that we'd be 6-1, I think we'd all be happy with that. We didn't start off the way we wanted to [with a Nov. 19 loss at the Colorado Avalanche] but it definitely finished the way we wanted to."

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus annually occupies United Center in Chicago in late November.

Rob Klinkhammer and Martin Hanzal scored in the second period for the Coyotes, who are 0-2-1 in their past three home games after a 9-0-1 start. This one came before an over-capacity crowd of 17,321 that included plenty of Blackhawks jerseys.

"They came back on us but we weathered the storm and [Raanta] played a great game and made some saves that he probably shouldn't have," Bollig said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we had more fans than them. It's always like that here. It's crazy how many fans we have on the road and it helps us out with momentum in games like this."

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made 31 saves but has allowed at least three goals in six straight starts and eight of the past nine. The first period continues to be a problem for the Coyotes, who have been outscored 28-16 in the first 20 minutes. For the second time in the past three games, mistakes and a listless effort put them in a quick three-goal hole.

"I don't know what it is," Hanzal said. "It's not acceptable though, and we've got to get it turned around. Once in a while we come out strong and keep it going, but it seems like we have to battle back too much, and you're not going to win against good team. That's exactly what happened."

Phoenix took two penalties in the first 1:14: a too many men on the ice call on the first shift change of the game followed by a Derek Morris holding call as Chicago attacked the Phoenix net. With a 5-on-3 power play for 1:35, the Blackhawks cashed in when Kane deflected a Hossa shot out of midair at 2:34.

Duncan Keith assisted on Kane's goal, giving him a point in all seven stops on the trip, eight in all.

At 8:56, Smith couldn't handle Shaw's weak backhander from the slot that dribbled between his skate and the post to make it 2-0. Just 2:08 later, Kane squeezed a pretty pass into the slot that Hjalmarsson fired under Smith's blocker, and the Blackhawks had three goals in their first 13 shots.

"First shift of the game, and you have two right defensemen playing at the same time?" Tippett said. "This is a big game ... you know they are coming in tired and will try to play a heck of a first period to see if they can push back, and we just say 'Here, go ahead.' We take penalties, make mistakes; we give them a 5-on-3 just to make sure they really get going. Then we give up a poor goal that should be stopped and then poor defensive zone coverage on the next one.

"You can push back after 3-0, but let's start the game on time. That's frustrating. It's so foreign from how you want to play if you're going to be able to compete with a team like that. It's almost inconceivable we could do it, but we did."

Phoenix regrouped in the second period, pressuring Chicago and getting on the board at 5:52. Michael Stone put a shot-pass off the back boards that found Klinkhammer waiting at the post for the stuff-in. It was the first assist of the season for Stone (he has seven goals) and the fifth goal for Klinkhammer, a one-time Chicago minor leaguer.

The Blackhawks were called for four penalties in the period, and with Hjalmarsson serving a double minor after arguing his slashing call, the Coyotes inched closer. Mike Ribeiro's cross-ice pass found Radim Vrbata, who set up Hanzal in front of the crease for a tip-in at 15:56 to make it 3-2. The Coyotes earned more than a minute of 5-on-3 penalty time less than a minute later, but the Blackhawks killed it off and carried their lead to the third period.

Raanta admitted to a few nightmares before his first NHL start against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday but said he felt much more comfortable Saturday.

"It was much easier to play today than in Calgary, straight from the beginning," he said. "I made a couple of saves from the start. Maybe I had too much energy in the second period, too many splits, but I forgive myself. It was a pretty good game."

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