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Blackhawks outlast Coyotes in shootout

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Forget low-scoring, tight-checking games between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks.

Instead of slowing it down, the Western Conference rivals opened it up Thursday night at United Center and traded goals before the Blackhawks emerged with a 5-4 shootout victory.

Brandon Pirri's goal in the fourth round of the shootout, a wrist shot that trickled past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, clinched the second point for Chicago (13-2-4) after Mike Ribeiro's wrister hit the left post to end it.

"[Smith's] a big guy so you've got to make him move and get him going east-west, and I saw an opening," said Pirri, who got the nod in the shootout from Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville after captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane went. "It's exciting [to get the call]. Everyone wants that opportunity and I was fortunate that he trusts me to go out there and I was happy it went well."

Pirri also scored his fourth goal of the season 3:00 into the third period to tie it at 4-4 by tipping home a slap shot from Brent Seabrook. Toews also scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks, who've won four straight and are 7-0-1 in their past eight games.

Radim Vrbata, playing for the first time since missing two games with a lower-body injury, scored in the second round of the breakaway competition for Phoenix (13-4-3) and assisted on Lauri Korpikoski's goal that tied it 3-3 late in the second period.

Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa also scored goals in regulation for the Blackhawks, who launched a season-high 52 shots against Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

Corey Crawford stopped 26 shots for the win, which helped Chicago overcome a recent run of success for Phoenix in the Windy City. The Coyotes came into the game 5-1-1 in their last seven games at United Center.

"I think they had a lot of confidence coming into this building and we wanted to definitely end that," Crawford said. "It was pretty exciting down the stretch. We had some great chances, but it's good to win one. Even though it was in a shootout, it was good to win one against them."

Michael Stone scored a pair for Phoenix, which also got a goal and assist from captain Shane Doan. It was Smith, however, who became the storyline in the third and overtime.

He came into the game leading all NHL goalies in shots faced (555) and saves (509) and faced 52 more shots, making 48 saves. That total included 16 stops on 17 shots in the third, when Chicago outshot Phoenix 17-6. Smith also had another collision with Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw, who ran into Smith behind the net in a 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals game to draw a suspension.

This time, Shaw appeared to get checked into Smith before his elbow collided with Smith's mask. He was whistled for goaltender interference, but Smith picked up a roughing call by immediately going after Shaw.

"He has a reputation of, two years ago, knocking me out and that was kind of a dirty play back in front again," Smith said. "I've talked about it numerous times with the League. We're talking about vulnerable hits. It's a goalie down in front and we're trying to make a save and a guy sticks his elbow out and that's an attempt to injure, as far as I'm concerned."

Shaw wasn't available for comment. Other than renewing hard feelings, it was an atypical game between the two teams from start to finish.

The game was tied 2-2 at the first intermission after the Coyotes overcame a two-goal deficit. Saad scored off his own rebound 2:37 into the game and Sharp made it 2-0 at 6:22 with his fifth goal, a blast from the blue line that traveled through a nice screen by Shaw. Patrick Kane assisted on each goal and Sharp, the NHL's Third Star of the Week, extended his points streak to four games.

Stone's cross-checking penalty led to Sharp's goal, but it didn't take him long to atone. He cut the deficit in half 41 seconds after getting out of the penalty box by wristing a shot from the point that deflected off Pirri's stick and evaded Crawford.

"[It was] tough to sit in the penalty box and have them score so quickly on it, so I wanted to come out and respond," Stone said. "It was kind of a fluky one, but we just pushed back and it felt like we could come back. It was still early in the game. We had some time, but we've got to hold on better."

Doan chipped a rebound over Crawford's left pad at 14:04 to tie it at 2-2, and that's how it stayed despite Phoenix getting a four-minute power play 10 seconds later. The Coyotes managed to only one shot during the long advantage to erase some momentum.

The middle period was just as exciting.

Hossa put Chicago ahead 3-2 at 5:05 with his ninth goal and third in the past three games. After wristing a high shot from the top of the left circle, he beat Keith Yandle to the low slot to collect the rebound off Smith's shoulder, then fired a well-placed wrist shot between Smith's blocker and right pad.

As was the case in the first period, the lead was short-lived.

Korpikoski and Stone scored goals 2:11 apart to put the Coyotes up 4-3 late in the second, but Phoenix also couldn't hold the lead. Pirri tipped Seabrook's slapper from the right circle past Smith for the tying goal and Chicago put eight shots on Smith during the next eight minutes before the Coyotes finally responded with one of their own.

Phoenix didn't have defenseman Derek Morris (lower body) to start the game and also lost half of its top defense pairing midway through the first, when Zbynek Michalek left the game with a lower-body injury and didn't return.

Without Michalek, the Coyotes' defense lost a lot of steam as the game progressed.

"The amount of time spent in our own zone really takes its toll on you, so that's another reason there's so many shots against [Smith]," Stone said. "We've got to work on cutting that down and taking care of the puck a little better. I think it would've helped us out a lot if we would've spent a little more time in their zone in the third period."

After the game, the Blackhawks announced a trade that brought back former forward Kris Versteeg and 22-year old minor-league forward Philippe Lefebvre in exchange for forward prospect Jimmy Hayes and defense prospect Dylan Olsen. Chicago also placed forward Michal Handzus (upper body) and defenseman Michael Kostka (foot) on long-term injured reserve.

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