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Arizona fights and fights, but can't steal one away

Mike Smith plays out of his mind, but it isn't enough as the Blackhawks beat the Coyotes 2-1.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In what was an unexpectedly close game, the Arizona Coyotes fall to the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1. Tobias Rieder scored and Mike Smith stopped 43-of-45 shots in the losing effort, and Brad Richards and Andrew Shaw scored for Chicago. Arizona drops their 14th in 15 games, and the Blackhawks win a game to start their road trip.

Chicago dominated play for most of the game, but Arizona found a way to remain pesky and keep it close - mostly due to the otherworldly play of their goaltender. Smith's night was reminiscent of the Smith of old, with many stellar saves down the stretch and even some of the moxie we're used to seeing out of him:

And while that play resulted in a penalty, Smith's goaltending effort (and the defense in front of him) was still good enough to win the game. Arizona just simply couldn't get a goal when it needed one.

Arizona did strike first courtesy of Tobias Rieder, who was able to flick a wrister through Corey Crawford after receiving a well-placed pass that ricocheted off the center-ice boards from Mark Arcobello. The goal was Rieder's third in five games and eleventh of the season.

The Blackhawks answered minutes later after going on the power play. Duncan Keith fired a slapshot through traffic and Andrew Shaw was the first to find. The rebound slipped by Smith to tie the game. The goal snapped a couple of droughts for Chicago:

From there, the rest of the period wreaked of Chicago momentum, as the Coyotes were outshot 16-6. One of those Coyotes shots (off the stick of Lauri Korpikoski) came pretty close, sneaking through Crawford but missing the goal line by inches. Despite the enormous shot disparity, the period would end tied at one.

The second period saw much of the same, with Chicago driving play for a good portion. Once again, the shot differential was staggering, with the Blackhawks outshooting the Coyotes 18-6 for the period.

With no goals to speak of, the most interesting moment of the period was actually a penalty kill. In what could be seen as a pivotal moment in the game, Kyle Chipchura was called for a double minor after high sticking Joakim Normstrom. After four minutes of tension and rather ineffective Chicago offense, the Coyotes walked away from the elongated penalty kill unscathed and for the first time in the game, momentum was in Arizona's corner.

Still, Arizona's puck luck only went so far. After John Moore was called for the delay of game, the ensuing power play saw Brad Richards field the Kris Versteeg rebound past Smith on the Blackhawk's 41st shot of the night. With the goal, the 34-year-old Richards notched the 900th point of his career.

In the waning moments of the third period, Arizona was gifted 40 seconds of 6-on-4 power play after Nordstrom laid down a dirty hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who would leave the game immediately after the play. But the 40 seconds would not be enough, as the Coyotes failed to score before the final horn blew.

Our Three Stars

  1. Mike Smith - Stopped 43-of-45 with a save percentage of .955. Best player on the ice for either team. Without Smith, Arizona isn't even in this game.
  2. Brad Richards - Game winning goal
  3. Klas Dahlbeck - Of all the Arizona defenseman, it was Dahlbeck who stood out the most against his former team. He was indiscriminate in taking on Chicago forwards, and won most of those battles. He was also one of the Coyotes consistently involved on the offensive side of things.

Paw Prints

  • For the Chicago perspective, check out Second City Hockey.
  • Coyote scratches: Shinnimin, Gormley
  • Special teams: 0-for-2 on the power play, 2-for-7 on the penalty kill
  • Prior to the first Chicago goal, the Coyotes had killed off 14 of their last 15 penalties.
  • Shots: 45-18 favoring Chicago
  • Since being traded away from the Coyotes at the deadline, Antoine Vermette has zero points in four games as a Blackhawk.
  • Attendance: 17,534 (Standing room only)

What's Next

The Coyotes stay in Arizona, as next in line is a visit from the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Arizona time at Gila River Arena.