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Pirri's big night helps 'Hawks edge Coyotes in shootout

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Chicago rookie center Brandon Pirri won't easily forget Thursday's game -- and neither will Blackhawks fans nor the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.

Promoted to the top line to start the game as reward for his inspired play of late, Pirri paid huge dividends, scoring the game-tying goal and then the winning goal in his first career shootout attempt as Chicago defeated Phoenix 5-4.

"I was fortunate to get a break like that on a tip," Pirri said of the equalizing goal early in the third period. "Great play by Seabs (Brent Seabrook) just putting it on net and that's what we were trying to do on (Phoenix goalie Mike) Smith.

"He's a great goalie, have to give him credit. He stopped 50 or something. We just tried putting pressure on him. It had to be a greasy goal if we were going to get one by him."

It was Chicago's first win at home against the Coyotes since a 4-3 shootout win Feb. 27, 2011.

"We've been talking about him for a long time and he's earned it," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said of Pirri after the game. "I'm certainly proud of the way he's hung in there. We liked the offensive part of his game and we're proud of what he did tonight."

Team captain and center Jonathan Toews also scored in the shootout for Chicago, while only right winger Radim Vrbata was able to tally for Phoenix.

"It's just the way things have gone," Smith said. "It seems like it's always a one-goal game or overtime or something crazy goes on during the game to make it exciting. But they're fun games to be a part of, they're competitive and through the whole 60 minutes it's an exciting building to play in."

The Blackhawks (13-2-4) have now won their last four games and six of their last seven.

"Our offense has been very efficient recently," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Two games in a row we give up four (goals) and get wins, that's a pretty good sign."

Phoenix (13-4-3) saw its two-game winning streak end, but the Coyotes are still 8-2-1 in their last 11 games and winners in nine of their last 12.

"I liked the way we battled back," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll take that. We knew they were going to come hard in the third period, but we just couldn't push back enough with our puck movement and we couldn't get anything sustained in the offensive zone to take the pressure off.

"Mike Smith did his job for us. It comes down to a shootout, anything can happen. We'll take the point and move on."

Even with the defeat, Smith was outstanding, stopping 45 of Chicago's 49 shots in regulation, three in overtime and two of its four shootout attempts. Smith is 10-1-3 in his last 14 starts.

"Against a team like that in their arena, I think we'll take it," Smith said. "We clawed back in it and got a big point on the road and found a way to keep moving up the standings."

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 26 of 30 Phoenix' shots, plus three of four in the shootout.

The Blackhawks wasted precious little time in taking the lead on left winger Brandon Saad's fifth goal of the season at 2:37 of first period.

Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone barely had a chance to take a seat in the penalty box to serve a two-minute penalty for cross-checking when the Blackhawks scored again. Right winger Patrick Sharp, who has been on a hot streak of late, scored his fifth of the season on the power play to put Chicago ahead 2-0 at 6:22. It was Sharp's 49th power-play goal of his NHL career.

Blackhawks fans barely had a chance to revel in the euphoria before Phoenix got on the scoreboard at 7:03 on Stone's goal (No. 4) to make it 2-1.

It became a brand new game at 5:56 of the opening period when Phoenix tied the score on right winger and team captain Shane Doan's power-play goal (No. 9).

Chicago regained the lead at 5:05 of the second period on right winger Marian Hossa's ninth goal of the season, a quick wrist shot past Smith.

But the Coyotes came right back with a pair of goals in short order. First, left winger Lauri Korpikowski (No. 3) scored at 14:55, and then Stone scored his second goal of the game (No. 5) to put Phoenix back ahead 4-3 at 17:06.

Chicago proved just as determined, however. The Blackhawks tied it at exactly 3:00 into the third period on Pirri's fourth goal of the season.

"We had some great chances in the third," Quenneville said. "We didn't get enough traffic in the first two periods, but the third was what we're looking for. That's a recipe to try to beat (Smith), just the number pucks and traffic and bodies. He still made some big saves in the third period."

NOTES: The Blackhawks announced after the game that they reacquired F Kris Versteeg as well as F Phillippe Lefebvre from the Florida Panthers in exchange for F Jimmy Hayes and D Dylan Olsen. ... Attendance was 21,762. ... The Blackhawks announced before the game that they placed F Michal Handzus on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, retroactive to Oct. 25. ... The Blackhawks play at Nashville on Saturday, back home Sunday against the San Jose Sharks and then embark on a seven-game road trip against Western Conference teams. They don't return home until Dec. 3 for a game against Minnesota. ... The Coyotes play their next three and four of their next six games at home. ... Coming into the game, the Coyotes were 8-0-0 this season and 84-6-9 under coach Dave Tippett when leading after the first period.
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