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Blackhawks continue successful road show

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Blackhawks' annual circus trip carries dual meaning now that the club has won two Stanley Cups in the past four seasons.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's circus still occupies Chicago's United Center for about two weeks, forcing the team to the road, but wherever the Blackhawks travel, they play before a circus-like atmosphere.

Chicago didn't disappoint on the last stop of its western trek, scoring three first-period goals to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2 on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena for its sixth straight win.

The win also gave the Blackhawks a 6-1 mark on their now-concluded road trip and kept them atop the NHL's overall standings with 44 points.

"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 right winger Patrick Kane, who started a new point streak one night after his career-high 12-game scoring streak was snapped in a 2-1 shootout win over 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 Colorado), but it definitely finished the way we wanted to."

Road-weary Chicago got exactly the start it wanted when the Coyotes took two penalties in the game's first 1:14, giving the Blackhawks a five-on-three power play.

Kane scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season off a deflection of Marian Hossa's shot from the point to give Chicago a quick 1-0 lead.

The goal also gave Chicago momentum. Center Andrew Shaw corralled a loose puck in front of Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and somehow slid a weak backhand past Smith for a 2-0 lead at the 9:18 mark. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson widened it to 3-0 less than two minutes later when he took a feed from Kane in the corner and blew a shot under Smith's arm.

"That"s the top team in the league and we come out and start like that?" Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's just unacceptable. It's not how you win in this league; it's not how you win on a consistent basis. That's a real good lesson for our team on how hard you have to play, how smart you have to play if you're going to be an elite team. You saw tonight we're not there yet."

The deficit might have seemed daunting, but this was standard operating procedure for the Coyotes, who have been outscored 28-16 in the first period this season, only to rally from nine deficits for victories.

Phoenix got on the board when defenseman Michael Stone intentionally shot a puck wide of the net to create a bank off the end boards. Wing Rob Klinkhammer was positioned perfectly to collect the puck at the side of the net and slip it past Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta (31 saves) to cut the lead to 31 at 5:52 of the second period.

Right winger Radim Vrbata then feathered a perfect pass to center Martin Hanzal in the slot on a power play and Hanzal knocked it in while falling down to cut the lead to 3-2 with 4:04 left in the second.

That was all the Coyotes could get, however, as the Hawks clamped down in the third period and Raanta stopped all nine shots he faced.

"I like his patience in the net. He's very cool," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of his rookie goalie. "He has poise and doesn't get rattled. He waits for the puck to come and does his thing. I also thought his rebound control was effective, so it was good to see him get the win."

Chicago left winger Brandon Bollig beat Smith up high off an odd-man rush for a 4-2 lead with 9:11 remaining in the game to give Raanta some cushion, and Hossa scored into an empty net for the final margin.

"We were saying all the right things in the intermission and we come out in the third period and we look like we're the ones who were tired," Coyotes forward Rob Klinkhammer said. "It's too good of a league. You can't battle back. We had some luck and we got some timely goals early (this season), but you can't do that all season, especially against good teams like Chicago."

NOTES: Blackhawks backup G Antti Raanta made his second career NHL start against the Coyotes. ... D Derek Morris played his 500th game in a Phoenix uniform. ... Coyotes D Zbynek Michalek (lower-body injury) and LW Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) missed the game. ... Saturday's game featured two of the NHL's four worst penalty-killing units. Chicago was ranked 29th (74.3 percent); Phoenix was ranked 27th (76.7 percent). ... Entering Saturday's game, the Blackhawks scored just 22 first-period goals in 27 games this season. They scored three against Phoenix. ... Chicago D Duncan Keith extended his point streak to eight games with a first-period assist on RW Patrick Kane's 16th goal of the season. Keith had two assists in the period. ... Keith has at least a point in 17 of his last 20 games. ... Coyotes C Rob Klinkhammer scored a goal in the second period, giving him at least a point in all three games against his former team.
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