Blackhawks beat Coyotes for 1st win of season

PetsSoccerSportsDuncan KeithNHLNikolai KhabibulinPatrick Sharp

The Blackhawks went from The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight to sharpshooters Wednesday night.

After struggling to find the net in their first three games, the offense got untracked as the Hawks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1 in front of a crowd of 20,522 at the United Center. The victory snapped the Hawks' winless streak to start the season and improved their record to 1-2-1.

Martin Havlat's highlight-reel goal in the second period sparked the offensive explosion and Patrick Sharp, Colin Fraser and Brian Campbell added scores. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, in his second start of the season, made 29 saves in a strong effort to earn the victory.

Trailing 1-0 after Peter Mueller's first-period goal, Havlat tied it at the 11-minute-35-second mark of the second when the winger took a pass from Duncan Keith, deked Phoenix's David Hale, moved across the slot and lifted a backhand shot over Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's left shoulder for his second goal of the season. Havlat ended up on his back pumping his fist while he slid into the glass after the score.

"Duncan gave me a fast pass and I had more time to create something," Havlat said. "It was one of the prettiest [goals], but it doesn't matter how we score. It was in and after that we started playing pretty good. The whole team was working pretty hard and Khabibulin was unbelievable. He gave us the win."

Sharp's second goal of the season gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead with 58 seconds left in the second. The center scooped up a rebound of a Keith shot from just inside the blue line and fired it past an out-of-position Bryzgalov.

The Hawks took a 3-1 lead on Fraser's first NHL goal 1:05 into the third. The rookie took a pass from Dave Bolland and fired a shot from between the circles over Bryzgalov's shoulder.

"We've been getting better every day," Fraser said. "The first period we were good but not great. We got better as the game went on and finished our chances."

Campbell's first goal of the season closed out the scoring. The defenseman took a pass from Havlat, took his time skating in on Bryzgalov and beat him from in close with 7:56 remaining.

"We were waiting for three games and were getting better every night," Havlat said. "It was time to get the win. We're happy to get it."

The Hawks' offense struggled the first three games and the four-goal output put an abrupt halt to the angst of a slow start to the season.

"We'll build confidence off this," coach Denis Savard said.

"It's good to see the breaks and the pucks go in for us. In New York [Friday night] we had empty nets and we missed. [Wednesday] we had two and we put them in off rebounds. The goals we got were off good breaks. Good teams get them."

The Coyotes had been hot, unbeaten in two games behind stellar efforts from Bryzgalov.

"We seemed to stop after getting our goal," Mueller said. "They played with a lot more grit than we did. Khabibulin played a great game and kept them in during the first period when we had more chances."

ckuc@tribune.com

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