Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 2, SO
Mikkel Boedker and Schlemko scored in the shootout to lift Phoenix to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, snapping the Coyotes' three-game losing streak and keeping them within range of the final Western Conference postseason berth.
Schlemko, a defenseman taking the first shootout attempt of his career, beat Corey Crawford with a high wrist shot for the deciding score in the third round of the tiebreaker to end Chicago's seven-game winning streak.
''I finally got a chance, so I figured I'd better bury it,'' Schlemko said. ''We're fighting for our lives. That extra point is huge and I think we deserve it.
With four games remaining, the 11th-place Coyotes moved three points behind Columbus for the eighth and last playoff spot in the West. Detroit is one point behind the Blue Jackets and Dallas another point back and one ahead of Phoenix. Columbus has three games left, while the Red Wings and Stars also have four remaining.
Patrick Kane had the lone shootout goal for Chicago against Mike Smith.
Smith made 36 saves through overtime in his return after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Smith frustrated the Blackhawks last season in the opening round of the playoffs, when Phoenix defeated Chicago in six games.
Smith was sharp on Saturday and big reason why the Coyotes pulled out the win. He was at his best in the first period when Chicago outshot Phoenix 16-9, but trailed the Coyotes 2-1.
''He was huge,'' Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. ''They with the (Jonathan) Toews lines and put some good pressure on us. ... We were kind of laughing after the first period. We needed to get Smitty into the game early, and he got into the game early.''
Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook scored two power-play goals in regulation for his first two-goal game this season and second of his career. Crawford had 29 saves through overtime.
Despite the loss, league-leading Chicago has points in 11 straight games (9-0-2). With 73 points overall, the Blackhawks are five ahead of Pittsburgh in the race for the NHL Presidents' Trophy. Both teams have four games left.
The Blackhawks were 2 for 4 on the power play against Phoenix. Chicago ended a string of 20 unsuccessful power-play chances over nine games on Friday night in a 5-4 overtime win over Nashville by scoring twice with the advantage.
An underperforming power play has been one of the few glitches for Chicago during the lockout-shortened regular season. The Blackhawks are trying to tune it for the playoffs.
''A couple of good shots by (Seabrook), a couple of good plays,'' Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. ''Both (power-play) units were doing some good things so it's nice to see.''
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also liked his team's play with the man-advantage, adding, ''I thought we had good motion and good movement, good options, It's nice to see some finished product.''
Even if they had to settle for just one point on Saturday.
''We have a lot of confidence we can win those tight games but sometimes it doesn't go your way,'' Toews added. ''We're more happy with the way we played then the result obviously. We'll take the good things from it and we're going on the road this week so we'll try and bounce back quick.''
The Blackhawks dominated early as Smith made with several close-in saves, including point-blank stops on Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad to keep it scoreless.
Seabrook finally put Chicago ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal on a high screened shot with 8:40 left in the first. He fired from the top of the left circle with Chicago's Andrew Shaw and Phoenix's Zbynek Michalek tussling in front of the crease.
The Blackhawks' momentum ended abruptly 46 seconds later, when Klesla tied it a 1-all on a bouncing dump-in from center ice. Klesla lobbed the puck toward the Chicago net from the left wing boards near the red line. Crawford dropped to his knees, and the puck bounded over him on a short hop.
''It's just a bad bounce,'' Crawford said. ''There's nothing I can do about it now.''
Vrbata then gave the energized Coyotes a 2-1 lead with 5:20 left in the period, beating Crawford from the left circle on with traffic in in front of the net.
Seabrook had the only goal in the second, tying it at 2 at 3:39 into the period with his second power-play score. Kane skated into the corner with his back to the play, but took a quick look over his shoulder and slipped a backhand pass to Seabrook, who had pinched into the left circle. Seabrook was wide open, ripped a shot past Smith and then celebrated his hot goal-scoring hand by blowing on his glove.
Both goalies made sharp saves early in the scoreless third, and Chicago's Marcus Kruger fired wide on a prime chance about 5 minutes into the period.
Early in overtime, Smith made a lunging glove save on Seabrook, then a quick stop on Toews.
NOTES: Chicago G Ray Emery sat out his second game with a lower-body injury, so Carter Hutton backed up Crawford. ... Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp (upper body) and D Michal Rozsival (upper body) also were scratches. Before the game, however, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he expected the team would travel to Vancouver for Monday's game with the Canucks with a full roster. ... Phoenix D Derek Morris sat out with a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. ... The United Center crowd of the 22,272 was the Blackhawks' largest this season.