Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes put up a huge fight, but Brad Richards’ first goal in 24 games proved to be the difference as the Chicago Blackhawks picked up a 2-1 win on Thursday night.
The game got off to a rollicking start for the Blackhawks as they racked up a ton of chances, but Mike Smith was more than up to the task as he kept his team in the game. Duncan Keith had a quick look on a slapshot from the slot, and Teuvo Teravainen launched a high shot in on Smith that yielded a juicy rebound, but Smith made the saves he needed to in the sequence.
Eventually, Smith was rewarded for his play as his teammates scored the game’s first goal. After beating Marcus Kruger on a rush through the neutral zone, Tobias Rieder fired a shot past Crawford to put the Coyotes up by a 1-0 margin just five minutes into the game.
About three minutes later, the Blackhawks got a power play opportunity, and they made the most of it as they tied the game up. Keith once again wound up from the point with a slap shot, and the puck hit traffic in front of the net. Fortunately for the Hawks, Shaw was there to collect the rebound, and he flipped home the shot to tie things up at 1-1 about eight minutes in.
The rest of the period saw the Blackhawks continue to rack up scoring chances, but the Coyotes stayed tied because of an extraordinary effort by Smith. Patrick Sharp was a victim of Smith on two occasions on a late power play, and even with an extensive 17-6 lead in shots on goal in the period, the Blackhawks still found themselves tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.
The Blackhawks got another power play early in the second period, but once again they weren’t able to take advantage as Smith and the Coyotes’ penalty killers performed admirably. Sharp had a shot sail just over the net, and Keith also had a quick opportunity from the point that Smith saved to keep things knotted up.
The Coyotes got a power play of their own just after the Blackhawks’ man-advantage expired, but they couldn’t register a shot on goal as aggressive Blackhawks forechecking prevented any opportunities. The Coyotes did get a chance shortly after the game returned to even strength, but they couldn’t take advantage of a Chicago miscue as Sam Gagner’s pass evaded Rieder on a 2-on-1 rush up the ice.
A four-minute double-minor followed for the Coyotes after Kyle Chipchura was called for high-sticking Joakim Nordstrom, but the Blackhawks failed to get much going offensively during the sequence. Jonathan Toews did get a rare opportunity as he drove to the net, but Smith stopped his shot and then subsequently stopped a follow-up rebound chance from Shaw to keep the game tied.
Arizona got a few chances late in the period, with Gagner being robbed by a sliding Corey Crawford and Shane Doan being denied on the doorstep, but they were still being badly outshot through two periods by the Blackhawks.
The third period got off to an incredibly sluggish start for both teams, with only one real scoring chance apiece coming in the opening half of the frame. Brent Seabrook had a slapshot denied at one end of the ice by Smith, and then in the transition play Martin Erat was stoned by Crawford to keep the game tied up.
Finally with about seven minutes left in the game, the Blackhawks took the lead thanks to a power play goal. Once again it was a rebound chance that set everything up, as Kris Versteeg drove hard to the net and fired in a quick shot that Smith steered back out. Richards was waiting on the doorstep for it, and he quickly flipped the rebound home to make it a 2-1 game.
The Blackhawks had a late penalty to kill off after Nordstrom hammered Oliver Ekman-Larsson into the boards, but they were able to finish things off and emerge from the game with a victory over the Coyotes.
The Hawks will next take to the ice on Saturday when they battle the San Jose Sharks in northern California.