Coyotes defeat Blackhawks amidst growing playoff pressure


Arizona Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at Gila River Arena. (Northeast Valley News/Adin Vilasevic)

Adin Vilasevic, Reporter

The struggling Arizona Coyotes faced a must-win matchup Tuesday night with the Chicago Blackhawks at Gila River Arena.

Not only were the Coyotes on a five-game losing streak, but Arizona was also two points out of a wild card berth.

The Coyotes delivered with a 1-0 shutout win against the team that had bombarded them with seven goals in their last matchup in Chicago.

The first period ended with both teams failing to score despite both putting up a combined 22 shots on goal. Although there were no goals in the first period, Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk lead all skaters with a season high five hits in the first period.

Midway through the second period, Richard Panik found himself in a one-on-one with Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford but came up short as Crawford made one of his 28 saves.

The Blackhawks entered a power play at 11:55 in the second period after Coyotes forward Clayton Keller got called for interference on Chicago defender Connor Murphy, but the Blackhawks weren’t able to convert, bringing the game into the second intermission tied 0-0.

The Coyotes got an early power-play opportunity in the third period after Blackhawks defender Brent Seabrook was called for tripping against Lawson Crouse. Arizona took advantage when Forward Nick Cousins scored his seventh goal of the season off of a deflected pass from Oliver Ekman-Larsson five minutes into the third period.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper earned the first star of the game with 31 saves in his fourth shutout on the season for the Coyotes and 15th of his career.

“We needed a response,” Kuemper said.

“Obviously, we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole on the road. We were playing well, just didn’t get the results. We knew we just had to stick with it and tonight was definitely playoff type of hockey tonight. But we got the huge win.”

Chicago now drops to five points out of the final wild card spot as they struggled to find any offense.

“I just think both teams didn’t want to give anything up,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said.

“Both teams haven’t scored as much lately so it was pretty tight. The puck was bouncing a lot so there was not a lot of clean plays being made out there. We’re fine. They just found a way to get a puck in the net.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Coyotes are again tied with the Avalanche for the final wild card spot as they look ahead to a matchup in Colorado on Friday.

“Friday night’s the most important game in the last, what, I don’t know how many years,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said.

“This is something that we’re looking forward to. We’re having trouble scoring goals. We know that, and sometimes you have to win 1-0 and we did, and that’s something I’m proud of this team about doing.”