The Phoenix Coyotes prevailed over the Blackhawks thanks to a dominant third period that saw Corey Crawford chased from the Chicago crease
Patrick Sharp scored on the Blackhawks' first and only power play in the third period, but it was far too late as the Coyotes scored two goals in the third period to chase Chicago's Corey Crawford out of the game for a 4-1 victory. The Phoenix win snaps Chicago's modest two-game winning streak and gives the Coyotes a jump all the way from eighth to third in the always tightly-packed Western Conference.
Both the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks are in the NHL's top-five in fewest penalties taken. The Coyotes only had two power plays, while the Blackhawks had their one within the final three minutes of the game. Despite the goal on the Chicago's only power play, special teams was not a factor in scoring, as predicted, and led to a relatively uneventful game until the third period.
Already with a 2-0 lead going into the final frame, Duncan Keith was about to set up the exit pass to Patrick Kane when Phoenix's Martin Hanzal intercepted the puck at the blueline. The turnover led to a little cycle action by the Coyotes, who would then bang in pucks until team-scoring leader Radim Vrbata backhanded his twelfth goal over a fallen Crawford 1:12 into the third.
Almost four minutes later, the Coyotes received another extended cycle due to a failed clearing attempt by the Blackhawks, and after much keep-away from the Chicago defenders, Ray Whitney put the and over Crawford, as his support was far from the crease and occupied with Vrbata by the boards. At 4-0, Ray Emery took over for Crawford's goaltending duties.
Shortly after the fourth goal, it appeared as though Phoenix would go up 5-0 as, once again, Crawford committed far too early. However, thanks to matching minors to Dan Carcillo and Daymond Langkow for cross checking, the goal was washed out and the two teams played 4-on-4 hockey, the Coyotes still leading 4-0.
The rest of the game didn't give Chicago much of a chance to get back into the game, as they had much difficulty establishing a forecheck and getting the puck out of their own end, while these things for Phoenix only improved throughout.
Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said "scoring first tonight was important," and seeing as the goal was definitely a lucky bounce for the Coyotes after it had appeared that Crawford made the save, the early 1-0 lead provided Phoenix with the edge and momentum.
It also didn't help that Phoenix's Mike Smith (24 saves) was on top of his game all night, which was quite the opposite of Crawford. Indeed, Chicago is tied for first with the Wild in the Western Conference, but the number of blowout losses suffered this month is at least a bit concerning, and the netminders will need to start stealing games for the Blackhawks down the road.