Hats-off night for Hawks' Byfuglien

Tribune staff reporter

For the record, his named is pronounced "Buff-linn."

And speaking of records, Blackhawks defenseman Dustin Byfuglien tied a couple of them during the Hawks' 6-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night at the United Center. Byfuglien's hat trick in a 5-minute-29-second span of the first period propelled the Hawks to their fourth straight home victory and improve to 14-9-2 overall.

Byfuglien tied team records with three goals in a game by a defenseman and two power-play goals by a defenseman as the Hawks exploded for five goals in the first period and never looked back.

"Everyone was just in position and moving the puck around," Byfuglien said. "I just got the shots and they all went in."

The Hawks wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Tuomo Ruutu broke a 15-game goalless streak when he fired a wrist shot past Coyotes goalie Ilja Bryzgalov 1:15 into the game. Martin Havlat stepped around a Phoenix defenseman and fed Ruutu, who scored from the right faceoff dot for his fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 20.

Rookie Jonathan Toews made it 2-0 just 2:42 later when he pounced on a rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot and scored his 10th of the season.

Byfuglien scored his first of the night while the Hawks were on a power play to extend the lead to 3-0. He took a pass from Sergei Samsonov and beat Bryzgalov, who had won four of his previous five games, at the 5:01 mark for his fourth goal of the season. Byfuglien struck again at the 10:14 mark with the Hawks on a two-man advantage.

Rookie Patrick Kane sent a pass to Byfuglien, who buried a wrist shot past Bryzgalov from the top of the left circle.

Those two hooked up 16 seconds later on virtually the same play. Still on a two-man advantage, Kane passed to Byfuglien, who fired in his sixth of the season and got his first career hat trick. Kane picked up assists on both plays to give him 20 on the season.

"I always take pride in the offensive zone and I'm trying to focus more on the 'D' zone," Byfuglien said. "If you focus more in the 'D' zone you're going to get you're chances sooner or later in the offensive zone."

The five-goal outburst was enough for Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, who pulled Bryzgalov in favor of Mikael Tellqvist.

Ruutu scored his second of the game—and Byfuglien notched his fourth point—tipping in Jim Vandermeer's shot at 8:10 of the second period to make it 6-0.

The Coyotes broke Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's shutout bid at 12:03 of the third on Peter Mueller's seventh goal of the season.

Khabibulin made 28 saves to raise his record to 10-6-2. The 6-foot-3-inch, 246-pound Byfuglien, who has one of the hardest shots on the Hawks, has also played forward this season. But he was on defense Friday night because James Wisniewski was sidelined with a concussion and cut on his face suffered Sunday in Vancouver.

"Big Buff can play either way, play up front [or] defense," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "I'm not taking it out of the question him being a forward because I wouldn't want to be a defenseman on the other side when he gets on the forecheck."


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