Brandon Pirri was hard on himself following Thursday night’s game.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks’ second-line center had a regulation goal, as well as the shootout winner in the Blackhawks’ 5-4 decision over the Phoenix Coyotes. But he didn’t play so well on the defensive side, the side that the coaches stress, the side on which he accidentally redirected a Phoenix goal past Corey Crawford.
But he nevertheless made up for it on the other end.
Pirri’s offense offset whatever defensive issues he may have had in Thursday’s victory, as the Blackhawks snapped the Coyotes’ six-game winning streak at the United Center. For Pirri, the goals were nice; but he wanted to play better on the other end.
“It’s big, but it wasn’t one of my better games,” he said. “There’s a lot of room to improve. It’s just back to work and trying to play a full 60 (minutes).”
[QUENNEVILLE: We're learning how to play without the puck]
As far as Pirri criticizing himself, coach Joel Quenneville said, “(the young players) are starting to understand the expectations. Position-wise (knowing) where to be, quickness and support and predictability is what we’ll continue to reinforce, and we expect progress. But offensively, he did some nice things.”
Marian Hossa, whose second daughter was born on Tuesday, had a great night and finished with a goal on five shots. He played just under 22 minutes and was once again as strong on defense as he is on the other end. Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy and Patrick Kane each had two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 26 of 30 for the victory.
The Blackhawks had their hands full once again with the Coyotes, who have made winning in Chicago a habit. Still, the Blackhawks looked like they weren’t going to give Phoenix any opportunities on this night, as Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp (on the power play) staked them to a 2-0 lead. But Phoenix fired back, first with Pirri’s accidental redirect that was credited to Mike Stone – who would get another one later – and then with Shane Doan’s power-play goal a few minutes later.
After that it was back and forth until the third period, when Pirri’s redirect of a Seabrook shot tied it 4-4. From then on the Blackhawks were determined to close it out in regulation, firing 17 of their 52 – that’s right, 52 – shots at Mike Smith in the third period. Smith, whose early rebounds led to goals from Saad and Hossa, was stellar down the stretch. It was the third time this season Smith has faced 50 or more shots. The previous two times came against the San Jose Sharks.
The Blackhawks pulled this one out despite Phoenix once again proving a formidable pest. Pirri can smile at his offense despite a not-as-good effort on the other side.
“I need to improve defensively. Today was a step back for me,” Pirri said. “But we got the win and that’s what’s important.”