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Blackhawks 5, Blues 2 @NHLdotcom

CHICAGO (AP) -They were less than perfect on Friday night, but the Chicago Blackhawks have a perfect record under new head coach Denis Savard.

Tuomo Ruutu scored his fifth goal in six games and Nikolai Khabibulin made 29 saves to lead Chicago to a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Chicago won its second straight, improving to 2-0 under Savard, who replaced Trent Yawney on Monday.

The Blackhawks nearly squandered a 3-0 lead built on goals by Ruutu, Jeff Hamilton and Tony Salmelainen.

The Blues took charge in the third period, closing to 3-2 on goals by Dennis Wideman and Bill Guerin. However, Chicago's Mikael Holmqvist and Martin Lapointe scored empty-net goals in the final minutes to send the Blues to their fourth straight loss.

"They went to a full press with more pressure," Savard said of the Blues. "We didn't recognize it, but we're coming along. We showed some good stuff and had some good chances and we won."

Although the Blues hemmed the Blackhawks in during much of the third, Chicago is playing a more fluid style under Savard, one of the flashiest offensive players in the team's history.

Savard has told his players he won't automatically bench them for taking chances to spark the team's attack.

"We want our guys to be active," Savard said. "That's the only way our team is going to get better. "There's no reason not to be confident," he added. "They showed great character tonight."

Khabibulin lost a bid for his first shutout as a Blackhawk - and first in regular-season play since March 1, 2004, while with Tampa Bay - when Wideman scored a power-play goal 34 seconds into the third period.

Blues goalie Curtis Sanford left the game just 6:15 in after suffering an injury that led to the game's opening goal - by Hamilton - on Chicago's third shot.

Sanford crumpled to the ice just over 6 minutes into the first period when he moved to block Patrick Sharp's shot, which sailed just wide of the left post. Seconds later, Hamilton picked up the loose rebound and tucked it into the unguarded net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.

Sanford had to be helped from the ice.

It was originally announced that Sanford had a "leg injury." After the game, however, St. Louis coach Mike Kitchen said, "I think it's a groin. Is it significant? I think I would say so."

Manny Legace took over in net, allowing two goals on 27 shots.

"I didn't see what happened," Legace said. "Poor guy. Obviously he was in excruciating pain. They let play go on; obviously it was dangerous."

Ruutu gave Chicago a 2-0 lead just over a minute later, scoring on the first shot against Legace. He connected through goalmouth traffic on a high wrist shot from the left circle.

Khabibulin stopped Radek Dvorak with a glove save on a breakaway at 5:50 of the second.

Salmelainen scored his second NHL goal - and second in two games - with 7:46 left in the second to extend Chicago's lead to 3-0. He beat Legace on a screened shot from the slot after taking a perfect feed from Duncan Keith in right corner.

Wideman cut it to 3-1 just 34 seconds into the third, beating Khabibulin on a screened shot from the left point.

Guerin knocked in a rebound of Keith Tkachuk's shot with 7:20 left to trim it to 3-2.

Khabibulin stopped Tkachuk from the edge of the crease, but Guerin drove to the net and muscled in the rebound.

Notes: Due to a snowstorm, the Blues didn't arrive in Chicago until about 2 p.m. They checked into their hotel at 3 p.m. and arrived at the United Center at 5 for the 7:30 game. ... St. Louis D Christian Backman sat out with the flu, as did Chicago LW Karl Stewart. Blackhawks D Adrian Aucoin missed his third game with a groin pull and is listed as day-to-day. ... Sanford missed three games with a groin injury in mid-November.

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