Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews puts Chicago on the scoresheet with a second period goal past Coyotes goalie Mike Smith to make the score 3-1 Phoenix as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Phoenix Coyotes Monday December 5, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 7, 2012 8:15AM
The Blackhawks’ matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night at times looked like a rerun of last week’s slow-played disaster at the United Center.
The building was quiet, the Coyotes were doing what they do to control the pace and made defensive plays to grab a three-goal lead. Another letdown looked to be in the works for the Hawks.
But these days, there’s just no stopping Jonathan Toews. Thanks to another strong game by him and Patrick Kane, the Hawks skated away with a point on Monday. Toews scored twice and assisted on Kane’s game-tying goal but the rally fell short in a 4-3 shootout loss.
“We found a way to get into that game after a slow start,” Toews said. “There’s been some games lately where we go down two or three goals in the first and second period and it just seems like it becomes a funk that we can’t get out of. As a team, we [got out of it] tonight.”
There is some consolation in the comeback after goalie Mike Smith (32 saves) and the Coyotes dominated early. In the end though, the Hawks couldn’t quite fully climb out of the 3-0 hole.
Backup goalie Ray Emery stopped 11 shots in relief of Corey Crawford, who lasted only 21:08. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Radim Vrbata both beat Emery in the shootout. Toews and Marian Hossa failed to convert.
Just like last week’s game, the Coyotes struck first and quieted the crowd. After Montador tripped, they got loose for a 2-on-1 breakout with pest Raffi Torres converting 2:35 into the game. It was the bad start they didn’t want to have against the defensive-oriented Coyotes and it only got worse.
Vrbata gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead after a bad sequence by the Hawks late in the first.
Crawford continued to struggle and was pulled after allowing his third goal on the first shot he faced in the second period, a long one by defenseman Keith Yandle.
Is the bad start tough to explain?
“We didn’t dump the puck in properly, which we were looking forward to doing and giving up the first goal again played right into them,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We reversed it in their end too many times. We got better when we got the puck in their end.”
It looked over until Toews struck. The Hawks scored three consecutive goals in the second and turned a slow, checking game into a wide-open affair. Hossa nearly capped the comeback but his short-handed chance on a wide-open net in the third was blocked by Yandle.
Toews, who fired in a shot from the circle and tipped in a point shot from Duncan Keith on a power play, stayed on his torrid streak and now leads the league with 17 goals.
“Toews has been hot lately and I think [Kane] complemented him in a lot of ways,” Quenneville said.
Despite the point, there’s little satisfaction with it after going into third period tied at 3-3.
“We had our chances,’’ said Kane, who had two points. ‘‘It would have been a totally different atmosphere in here if we won the shootout. It’s tough it came down to that.”