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Arizona Coyotes beat Blackhawks behind big games from several players

Vinnie Hinostroza #13 of the Arizona Coyotes advances the puck up ice ahead of Alex Nylander #92 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period of the NHL hockey game at Gila River Arena on December 12, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It would be challenging to pick one “player of the game” in the Arizona Coyotes’ win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

In the 5-2 win, multiple players had big nights as Arizona (19-11-4) moved back into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Brad Richardson scored his first goal of the season. Clayton Keller had a whopping 12 shots on goal and scored twice. Vinnie Hinostroza had three assists against his former team. Nick Schmaltz scored a goal, also against his old squad. A pair of defensemen stepped up in the wake of injuries to other blueliners. Michael Grabner scored, too (assisted by Richardson).

It all came following a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames in their last game on Tuesday.

The Coyotes outshot the Hawks 40-30 as Darcy Kuemper made 28 saves in goal. Robin Lehner made 35 saves for Chicago. Jonathan Toews and former Coyotes forward Dylan Strome each scored for the Blackhawks.

But the story of the game was multifaceted. Here’s a look at the players who had important games for themselves and the Coyotes:

BRAD RICHARDSON

After missing some time with injury, Richardson hasn’t played in as many games (27) as his teammates (34) but nonetheless was relieved to score his first goal of the season on Thursday.

“In my opinion, I could have a lot more goals than I do,” Richardson said. “I feel like I’ve had so many Grade-A chances and I’m just not getting any bounces and just a couple, maybe, missed shots or unlucky plays. I don’t know. It’s a tough stretch, for sure, but I feel like my role, I try to do other things to help the team.”

He also had an assist, played 2:44 shorthanded time and was 3-for-6 from the faceoff circle.

CLAYTON KELLER

Keller scored twice and had twelve shots on goal on Thursday (the next highest total of any player on either team was five from Chicago’s Ryan Carpenter). He has now amassed 10 points in his last 11 games (3 G, 7 A) and probably deserves to have a couple more, playing really well as of late.

He had 13 points in 23 games (4 G, 9 A) prior to this stretch.

“I thought I had a really good training camp and struggled to bear down in the first couple games,” Keller said. “But you stick with it, keep getting better each day at practice and doing the little things to get rewarded. So it’s a lot of fun to play right now and I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

He was on a line with Derek Stepan and Hinostroza.

VINNIE HINOSTROZA

Hinostroza might not have any ill will against the team that traded him, but if he does, he got some payback with a three-point night.

“It’s always nice to do that against your old team,” he said, leaving it at that.

The 2012 sixth-round pick by the Blackhawks got three secondary assists. His first point was a backhand pass to help the Coyotes break out of the zone and find Grabner.

The next one was just 2:07 later, finding Jordan Oesterle around behind his own net to make a stretch pass to Keller for a goal.

His third was his own zone entry that he picked up later to pass to the blue line for a shot deflected in by Richardson.

“Vinnie was flying,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I thought he was really buzzing early. He set the tone for the team, so he did a nice job.”

AARON NESS AND OLIVER-EKMAN LARSSON

Tocchet said after Tuesday’s loss that some defensemen would have to step up in the wake of injuries to Jason Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and earn playing time.

Aaron Ness made at least two big-time plays in the first period, once when he got back quickly to defend what would’ve been a breakaway and poked the puck away, and again on a similar play when he got back and deflected a shot attempt away with his stick blade.

“Tonight he was really good,” Tocchet said of Ness, who didn’t like his own game against Calgary. “I thought [Oliver Ekman-Larsson], [that] was his best game of the year, one of his best games of the year. That’s the stuff I love to see. He was aggressive and he worked the blue line aggressively and took some shots.

“Just more urgency on the blue line. Taking that puck 60 feet and then blasting it instead of holding it. I’d rather him not to defer sometimes, and I think tonight, he didn’t defer. If somebody was open, he gave it to him. And if not, he just blasted it. And he must have finished five or six guys in the corner and he stopped a couple cycles with good checks. That’s just O. He was just very decisive whatever he was going to do.”

LOOSE PUCKS

— On Toews’ goal for Chicago, Ness was tripped up and therefore couldn’t get back to defend the rush properly. It was clear on the replay that Toews tripped Ness, but there was no penalty. Tocchet said the on-ice official apologized for missing the call.

“What are you going to do? You can’t see everything,” Tocchet said. “I think someone got in front of the ref.”

— The Coyotes announced Thursday that rookie forward Barrett Hayton would be loaned to Team Canada for the World Junior tournament.

— The team’s television broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona on Thursday doubled as a telethon for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation. It announced afterward that more than $100,000 was raised.


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