Scoring, shooting and fighting.
The Blackhawks were masters of all three Saturday night, playing like a team on a mission, rather than one going nowhere. In their 7-5 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, the highlights and hits just kept on coming.
Jeff Hamilton picked up a hat trick and had two assists, and Patrick Sharp scored twice, as the Blackhawks avoided losing to the Coyotes for the fourth time this season. It was the Hawks' third straight win.
Nice stats, for sure, but it was David Koci who literally punched up the action. In his first NHL game, he picked up 42 penalty minutes, including two game misconducts, in just over two minutes on the ice. The franchise record is 51, set by Chris Chelios in 1993.
Koci got rolling early, duking it out on his initial shift. He got into another jaw-popping altercation in the first period, and with 17:10 left in the game, he got into it again, a third fight and an automatic ejection.
"That was an exciting game for me," Koci said. "I feel kind of bad about that last hit (on Bill Thomas). I don't want hurt a guy. I think it was a clean hit."
Koci's teammates said his crunching of Thomas was a clean hit. His first two battles, with Phoenix enforcer Josh Gratton, were rollicking affairs.
"I came here as a tough guy, to protect the stars," Koci said. "On that first shift, I guess I lost that fight, but I've always lost my first fight. The second time, I hit him behind the net, and he said to me, 'Let's go again,' and I said, 'Let's go.' I think I got better that time."
Hamilton was as happy with the team's third straight win as he was with his three goals.
"That was a fun game," Hamilton said. "We started out well, 4-0, and that momentum helps the whole game. We were doing the simple things early, chipping in, hounded them on the floor checks and got some good bounces and made some good play, but they came back and made a game of it."
As for Koci's effort, he said, "It was unbelievable. He played great. He had those three big fights, and he blocked a shot that led to a goal on the next shift. Banging bodies is his job."
The first period was an instant highlight film. The teams combined for eight goals, 32 shots and about 60 punches. The goals were the most scored in the first period of an NHL game this season.
By the end of the first period, Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky had seen enough of his goalie. He pulled Tellqvist and inserted the veteran Curtis Joseph for the second period.
Phoenix had won the previous three meetings this season, two coming in shootouts. But one-time Coyote Nikolai Khabibulin helped reverse the tide for the Hawks, stopping 32 shots.
The Blackhawks are on a five-game road trip, not returning to home ice until March 22.
The lowly Coyotes (27 wins, 57 points), now on a five-game losing streak, are 2-11-1 in their last 14 games.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times