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Blackhawks beat Coyotes 4-1 for first win of season

The Canadian Press
By:
The Hockey News
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Blackhawks beat Coyotes 4-1 for first win of season

The Canadian Press
By:

CHICAGO - Nikolai Khabibulin kept it close until the Chicago Blackhawks' offence took over midway through the second period.

Khabibulin made 29 saves, and Martin Havlat, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell and rookie Colin Fraser scored in the final 29 minutes to lead the Blackhawks to their first victory of the season, 4-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.

Duncan Keith and Kris Versteeg each had two assists, and the Blackhawks (1-2-1) scored more than two goals in a game for the first time this season.

Khabibulin kept it scoreless early. He made several close-in saves until a power-play goal by Phoenix's Peter Mueller at 4:30 of the second gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.

"We got great goaltending in the first period," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "Then we got some breaks and the puck went in for us."

A big hit by Chicago rookie defenceman Aaron Johnson on Phoenix's Viktor Tikhonov in the second seemed to fire up the Blackhawks.

So did a highlight-reel goal by Havlat with 8:25 left in the period that tied it at 1. Havlat skated in from the left point, danced around Phoenix defenceman David Hale, stickhandled across the slot and beat goalie Ilja Bryzgalov with a high backhander.

"That was the play we were waiting for," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "When he pulled that, we were laughing on the bench. I couldn't believe he pulled that off. We went to work and everything came together."

Added Havlat: "It was one of the prettier ones, but it doesn't matter how you score. The whole team was working hard and 'Habby' was unbelievable tonight."

Fraser's goal was his first in the NHL. Campbell's was his first with the Blackhawks after signing an eight-year, US$56.7-million free-agent contract.

"With every game, we're getting a little better," Campbell said. "Tonight the turnovers were down a ton, although we came out a little loose."

Bryzgalov made 26 saves in the Coyotes' first loss after opening with two victories.

"We played too easy of a game," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. 'After a period and a half, we started to cheat a little bit. If you cheat, you're going to get beat at this level."

The Coyotes played most of the game without defenceman Derek Morris, who was injured in the first period and didn't return. Team officials wouldn't comment on Morris' condition.

Mueller's opened the scoring on a high, screened shot from the right circle moments after a 5-on-3 Phoenix advantage lapsed to a 5-on-4.

After Havlat tied it at 1, Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 58 seconds left in the second, just after a Chicago power play expired. From the right edge of the crease, Sharp ripped in a rebound of Keith's shot from the point.

Fraser made it 3-1 just over a minute into the third. He fired from the slot and beat Bryzgalov high on the glove side after taking Dave Bolland's pass from behind the net. Campbell completed the scoring with just under 8 minutes left in the third when he trailed in late on a rush.

Notes: Coyotes D Jonas Ahnelov missed his third game because of an undisclosed injury. He's on injured reserve. ... Blackhawks LW Ben Eager played his first game after sitting out Chicago's first three because of a league suspension. ... Chicago D Niklas Hjalmarsson missed his third game. He's day-to-day with bruised ribs.

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Blackhawks beat Coyotes 4-1 for first win of season