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Blackhawks end Hurricanes' win streak

by Brian Compton
Kris Versteeg has the secret to succeeding in the shootout: don't think, just shoot.
That's what Versteeg did on Wednesday night, when he broke a tie in the fourth round of a shootout and the Chicago Blackhawks beat Carolina 3-2 at the United Center to end the Hurricanes' winning streak at four games.
''We had a ton of shootouts at the start of the year,'' Versteeg said. ''You just go down there and do whatever you have in your head. You try not to think too much. If it works, it works. If not ... not.''
The Blackhawks were just moments away from winning in regulation. But with Carolina on a power play and goalie Cam Ward off for an extra attacker, the Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu scored with 26.5 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 2.
Chicago is fourth place in the Western Conference. With the point for the regulation tie, Carolina tied Pittsburgh for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, although the Hurricanes have one more loss than the Penguins.

''You have to keep winning. If you lose, you're going to be out of the playoffs pretty soon,'' said Ruutu, a Chicago first-round pick who dealt away last season. ''It's always a little emotional, but not nearly like it was last year right after my trade.''

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews traded goals with Ruutu to open the shootout. The teams did the same thing in Round 2, as both Patrick Kane and Jussu Jokinen found the back of the net against Ward and Cristobal Huet, respectively.

After both teams failed in the third round, Versteeg -- who also scored in the second period -- beat Ward to give the Blackhawks the advantage. Huet then denied Samsonov, which ended Carolina's four-game winning streak.

''Pucks were going in all over the place,'' Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ''It was pretty exciting out there. The game was tight and that's what we're going to see until the end.''
In overtime, Ward stopped a partial breakaway by Kane, and Huet blocked a shot by Eric Staal all alone with three seconds left.

''It goes off to chance in the shootout,'' said Ward, who made 39 saves. ''And they've got some good players who can shoot the puck.''

Rod Brind'Amour gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season at 5:29 of the opening period. With the teams at even strength, Brind'Amour took a pass from Sergei Samsonov and beat Huet (29 saves) near the side of the net.

Ward stopped seven shots during two Blackhawks' power plays in the opening period and also snuffed Kane from point-blank range, but Chicago tied the game when Versteeg scored with 2:52 left in the second. Versteeg came down on a 2-on-1 with Duncan Keith, as he wristed a shot from the left circle past Ward to make it 1-1. It was Versteeg's 18th goal of the season.

"We got ourselves back in that game, said Quenneville, who coached his 900th NHL game. "Even though we were behind, I thought we were doing some good things. It was very intense.

Sometimes, you've got to stick with it. I didn't mind our first period. You don't want to change your approach and what's going to make you successful. We got rewarded in the end."

Troy Brouwer gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night with a power-play goal 4:51 into the third period. With Ruutu serving a four-minute high sticking penalty, Brouwer took a pretty feed from Kane and beat Ward for his 10th goal of the season.
"You just go down there and do whatever you have in your head. You try not to think too much. If it works, it works. If not ... not." -- Kris Versteeg on his shootout goal
Huet was sharp for the Blackhawks, as he stopped 20 of 21 shots over the final 40 minutes of regulation. It was Chicago's first win over Carolina since April 3, 1999
"I knew they were eventually going to push a little harder and throw pucks at the net," Huet said.

"That's what happened. As the game went on, I thought my play was a little better. I gave up two goals in the shootout, but we scored three so it was perfect."

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

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