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Blackhawks edge Stars in shootout

by Brian Compton
Kris Versteeg skated to center ice for the fifth round of the shootout without a plan.

It worked.

After Loui Eriksson erased a 3-2 deficit with 3:50 left in regulation, the Chicago Blackhawks avoided what would have been a disappointing loss as Versteeg beat Marty Turco to lead the Central Division frontrunners to a 4-3 victory against the Dallas Stars at the United Center on Tuesday night.

''It was just going in and shooting and hoping it went in,'' Versteeg said. "Turco, he's a heck of a goaltender. You don't want to do too much in the shootout. Go down and keep it simple."

After losing three in a row, Chicago has won back-to-back games. Patrick Kane scored twice in the first period for the Blackhawks, while Antti Niemi made 24 saves to improve to 15-4-1.

Chicago had taken a 3-2 lead early in the final period on a goal by Troy Brouwer, who scored from the right circle after Marian Hossa fired the puck off the boards behind the net.

"The last two games have been important for us," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "There have been some ups and downs the past couple of weeks. That's going to happen. It's getting late in the season and we're going to face some adversity. The best time to face it is right now."

Mike Ribeiro and James Neal also scored in regulation for the Stars (26-21-12).
Niemi had stops on Mike Modano and Brad Richards on the power play in overtime to preserve the tie. Brenden Morrow's long shot was deflected into the net about a second after the horn sounded and the game went to a shootout.

"I thought he was solid," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Niemi. "I thought he looked very poised in the shootout as well. I'm very happy with him winning again and taking advantage of the opportunity here tonight."

Turco had 37 saves for the Stars, who made a trade during the game in which they acquired goaltender Kari Lehtonen from Atlanta and sent defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft to the Thrashers.

Returning after missing 15 games with a throat injury, Ribeiro scored on a power play in the first. Fabian Brunnstrom dug the puck out from the boards, slid it to Neal in the right circle and he made a diagonal pass to a wide-open Ribeiro for the score.

''I felt cardio-wise I was good-to-go and it got better and better. I wasn't expecting that much ice time,'' said Ribeiro, who played over 17 minutes. ''I got lot of ice time. I played a lot more than I though I was going to play. I felt good. I got hit and I tried to hit to.''

Chicago tied it when Kane skated into the left circle and wristed a shot right past Turco. Dallas got the lead back with just under two minutes to go in the opening period when Neal scored his team-high 24th goal on a rebound.

But Kane answered quickly, circling from behind the net and ripping another shot from the right circle that eluded Turco to make it 2-2.

Turco preserved the tie in the second with a sprawling save of an attempt by Dustin Byfuglien on a breakaway with just over two minutes to go in the period.

''It was game where you knew it probably was going to come down near the end of the 60 minutes, and it did,'' Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. ''We're not disappointed with getting a point, but sure would have liked to get two. In the overtime, both team hit posts, so the margin of converting and not converting is pretty small.''

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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