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Hawks Blank Phoenix To Take West Lead

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This time, there were no two-goal meltdowns to give the Phoenix Coyotes new life.

The Chicago Blackhawks played like a team aiming to win the No.1 seed in the Western Conference rather than the one that coughed up a pair of two-goal leads and lost 5-4 in a shootout at Phoenix this past weekend.

Instead, the Hawks received great goaltending by
Antti Niemi, got goals by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, and dominated the Coyotes 2-0 on Tuesday night in front of 22,077 at the United Center.

Hawks ended Phoenix's nine-game winning streak, a mark that tied the franchise record set 25 years ago when the team was based in Winnipeg. The Hawks' injury-riddled defense played much better than it has the past two weeks after getting defenseman
Brent Seabrook back from a head injury, and Niemi was impressive while again starting for flu-stricken starter Cristobal Huet.

Niemi stonewalled the Coyotes with 28 stops, including several point-blank chances in the second period and against midway through the third when he dove to snare a puck shot by Taylor Pyatt out of mid-air, taking away what looked like a sure goal.

Kane and Hossa scored in the second period for the Hawks, who stayed one point ahead of San Jose and moved two points ahead of the Coyotes in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference. Chicago also has one game in hand on San Jose and two on Phoenix.

The Coyotes (46-23-5) thought they'd scored first in the first period when Shane Doan circled Niemi and wristed one home with 7:40 left. The goal was waived off, though, because Matthew Lombardi was whistled for being in the crease.

But Chicago was the aggressor from the start. The Hawks (46-19-7) peppered Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with 12 shots in the first without a goal, but set the tone for the game. Bryzgalov was red-hot coming into the game with a seven-game winning streak, but Chicago's attack proved to be too much.

Kane's goal came just 1:45 into the second period on a well-placed shot past Bryzgalov's trapper on the far side. Hossa trickled one past the Coyotes goalie a little over six minutes later for a 2-0 lead.

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