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Vrbata's Goals Are The Difference As Coyotes Down Blackhawks


While it may not have been business as usual at Arena on Saturday night, it certainly was the case on the ice for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Phoenix was playing in just their second sellout of the season, hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Given the large population of former Chicagoans calling the Phoenix area home, they certainly made themselves heard on Saturday, covering at least more than half of the arena.

That didn't seem to matter much for the Coyotes. Coming in fresh after a couple of days off, the Coyotes damaged the spirits of those Chicago fans in attendance, even though it took a shootout to do so, in their 3-2 win.

While Phoenix found themselves outplayed for the majority of the first period, there was a dramatic shift in momentum about three quarters of the way through the first. Catching the Blackhawks in a line change, Radim Vrbata snuck up the left side and slipped a nasty backhander past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. It was more of a credit to Vrbata than it was a defensive breakdown by the Hawks.

Early on in the second, the Coyotes made every effort to kick the Hawks while they were down. Less than a minute into the second, Taylor Pyatt ripped a shot that went top shelf on Crawford, leaving him no chance to make the save to give Phoenix the 2-0 lead.

The Hawks would slowly creep back into this one, though. Phoenix fans were surely weary as Chicago slowly picked up momentum, which culminated in a Troy Brouwer power play goal towards the end of the period.

The third period belonged to Chicago. The Hawks outshot the Yotes 11-5, and evened the score on Duncan Keith's power play goal. Despite a few chances for each side at the end of the third, the two squads went to overtime.

Even more so than the third, Chicago ran the overtime period. Shots favored them at 5-1, including a breakaway from Patrick Kane, but he was stoned by Ilya Bryzgalov, who had 31 saves in the game. The two sides played to a scoreless period and a shootout.

After both captains, Shane Doan and Jonathan Toews, were stopped on their shootout attempts, Radim Vrbata scored what would be the only goal of the shootout. Kane found his saved by Bryzgalov, and the same was true of Ray Whitney against Crawford. It came down to a Marian Hossa chance to force sudden death, but he shot it wide to seal the victory for the Coyotes.

Once again, the Coyotes won with a defense-first philosophy, which appears to be working quite well of late. The Coyotes have won four in a row, including Saturday's game which may have well have been a road game. 

With the win, the Coyotes jump up to fourth place, and are just one point behind the Dallas Stars for third in the Western Conference, and the Pacific Division lead. Their next game comes on Valentine's Day, when they host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Monday.