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Blackhawks top Canucks; Quenneville moves up

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Chicago Blackhawks made coach Joel Quenneville wait for his historic win, but not too long.

Chicago overcame a two-goal deficit with three goals in a span of a little more than four minutes midway through the second period to end a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win against the Canucks on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

It was Quenneville's 693rd win in the NHL, moving him into sole possession of third place on the League's all-time list, one ahead of Dick Irvin and behind only Al Arbour (782) and Scotty Bowman (1,244).

"Took a little while to get this last one," Quenneville said with a smile.

It didn't take long to secure it.

After making their coach wait through a 0-2-2 drought that included a 5-4 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks didn't need long to take over against the Canucks.

Marian Hossa started the comeback with a pretty power-play goal 6:30 into the second, then Brandon Saad tied it at 9:39. Jonathan Toews put Chicago ahead for good 68 seconds later, and Patrick Sharp made it 4-2 with 5:49 left in the period.

Saad scored his second of the game into an empty net with 38 seconds left.

"The confidence is always there," said Toews, who also set up Sharp for his 27th goal. "We know what we are capable of as a team."

The captain was quick to credit Quenneville for the consistency that helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 and has kept them near the top of the NHL standings again this season.

"Dealing with a season like this where everyone is coming at you -- everyone wants to talk about the so-called hangover -- I think Joel brings that consistency to our lineup where we know what to expect every single night," Toews said. "And if we start making mistakes and dropping points we shouldn't be, we are quick to correct the errors."

Chicago made a few early in Vancouver.

Chris Higgins scored 16 seconds into the game, and Tom Sestito put the Canucks up 2-0 early in the second period. The two-goal lead didn't last long against the NHL's top-scoring team, though, and Vancouver fell to 2-3-0 through five games of coach John Tortorella's 15-day suspension.

"They haven't won a couple Stanley Cups for no reason," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who finished with 36 saves. "We've got to play 60 minutes against teams like that. For the majority of the game, I thought we played really well, but we had a little lapse, and it's game over."

The Canucks are 4-9-1in 2014, and will head out on the road for their final five games before the NHL breaks for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Guys are discouraged," said Mike Sullivan, who will serve as interim coach one more game before Tortorella returns. "We've hit a bump in the road, and we've got to dig ourselves out of it. There's no sense putting your head down and shrugging your shoulders. This is an unforgiving league."

That's especially true against the Blackhawks.

Chicago also overcame a two-goal deficit against the Flames, but this time they finished off the comeback. Corey Crawford, back in goal after coming on in relief the night before, finished with 29 saves, and the Blackhawks moved back into sole possession of the Central Division lead with 79 points.

"We always have confidence in our guys to score goals," Crawford said. "We're never out of a game. It doesn't matter what the score is."

The Blackhawks fell behind early as Higgins scored on the opening shift, stopping Ryan Kesler's shot alone in the slot and slipping a backhand between Crawford's legs. But Chicago took over from there, outshooting the Canucks 12-2 over the next 15 minutes and forcing Luongo to make several spectacular saves.

"Get scored on the first shift is never a good feeling, but we knew that wasn't going to be the difference," Toews said.

Sestito doubled the Canucks' lead at 2:44 of the second period with a one-timer from the slot after a nice cycle by the Canucks' third line. But the floodgates opened with David Booth off for bumping Crawford.

Hossa finished off some perfect power-play passing with his 24th goal. Saad moved the puck out of the right corner to Kris Versteeg at the left faceoff dot; Versteeg sent it back across to Hossa, who had time to settle the hard pass and fire over a sprawled Luongo.

"We know we didn't play a good bunch of games before, but we didn't panic after it was 2-0, and we find a way to win," said Hossa, who also scored twice in Calgary on Tuesday.

Saad tied it a little more than three minutes later with a nice deflection in the slot of a point shot from Sheldon Brookbank, who was back in the lineup in place of Michal Rozsival after sitting out in Calgary.

Toews was left untouched atop the crease to tip in a bouncing puck thrown to the net by defenseman Brent Seabrook less than a minute later. He set up Sharp's insurance goal with a nice drop pass off the rush before the period ended. The pass left Sharp with time and space to beat fellow Canadian Olympian Luongo with a glove-side wrist shot.

"When you get Sharpie with the puck and a little time in a scoring position, it's rare he's going to make a mistake," said Toews, who has 34 assists.

The Blackhawks, who are two games into a six-game road trip that will take them into the Olympic break, made a couple lineup changes after the overtime loss against the Flames. Forward Bryan Bickell, who is in the first season of a four-year, $16 million contract, was a surprise scratch for the second time in three games; veteran Michal Handzus took his place in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday.

The moves paid off for the Blackhawks, who improved to 10-1-3 in the second half of back-to-back games this season.

"Rolling four lines for a whole game, we haven't had stretches like that over a recent period, and I think it's night and day when it works," Quenneville said. "That makes us a better team. We had it tonight."

It may also make it tougher for Bickell to get back in the lineup.

"When he's at his best, he's doing things at a high rate of speed and he's physical and he's playing our team game," Quenneville said. "We're looking for those ingredients. We know he has them."

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