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Blackhawks, without Kane, weather Hurricanes

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane and several others were missing, but the Chicago Blackhawks still had Jonathan Toews and a talented supporting cast contributing to a big win Friday at United Center.

Rather than letting Kane's lower-body injury drag them down, the defending Stanley Cup champions beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 by leaning on their wealth of talent and getting a timely shorthanded goal early in the third period from Toews.

"We've been lucky to be really healthy all season and I hope that continues," said Toews, who scored his 28th goal of the season 3:29 into the third to counter a game-tying goal by Alexander Semin 31 seconds earlier. "That's one of those things [where] you need to learn how to play without some of your best players. It doesn't matter if someone's nursing something. You need to find a way to fill that void and [have] some guys ready to go to assume more responsibility and [we] showed that preparation tonight."

In addition to Kane, Chicago was missing three regulars: forward Brandon Saad (upper body), forward Bryan Bickell (upper body) and defenseman Michal Rozsival (lower body).

Rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen, recalled Friday morning, was a healthy scratch as he gets acclimated to his surroundings after arriving from Finland. Helping to fill the gap were forward Jeremy Morin, recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Friday, and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who played right wing on the fourth line.

Things started well for the Blackhawks, who dominated the first period, but a flurry of penalties in the final 40 minutes eroded the effort and slowed them down. After coughing up a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Semin, his 20th and 21st, Toews bailed Chicago out by quickly rising to the occasion by capitalizing on a fortunate bounce following a missed shot by Eric Staal and scored what turned out to be the game-winner.

After Staal's shot hit the boards behind the Chicago net, the puck wound up in the neutral zone behind the Carolina defense. Toews scooped it with a head of steam and beat goalie Anton Khudobin with a quick deke and backhand shot to put Chicago back in front. It was Toews' ninth goal in 10 games since returning from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but he wasn't in much of a mood to pat himself on the back.

"There's been a couple games where I get lucky breaks, kind of like I did tonight," Toews said. "I can't sound too happy with the way I played tonight, so scoring a goal doesn't make it all better. I've got to find a way to be more productive and keep that success going, I guess."

Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg scored the first two goals for the Blackhawks (41-15-15). Corey Crawford made 26 saves for his 28th win.

The victory pushed Chicago three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division. The Avalanche lost 2-0 against the Boston Bruins at Pepsi Center, so from that aspect it was a good night for the Blackhawks.

It wasn't as satisfying from a technical standpoint. Chicago was outshot 24-14 in the final two periods and was called for six penalties, all of which led to Carolina power plays.

"We had a good start to the game, we had some good quality stuff, but it slowed down for a long stretch," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "[Crawford] was excellent. I thought he had a real strong game, one of those games where he made a difference."

Carolina (30-31-9) got another strong showing from Khudobin, who made 22 saves. He was beaten twice on breakaways, by Toews and Sharp, and once on a well-placed wrist shot by Versteeg from the slot. Otherwise he was strong, especially in the first period.

Khudobin stopped 46 shots three days earlier in a 3-1 road victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets and carried the momentum from that win into this game. The Blackhawks put seven shots on goal in the first 5:50 and he stopped them all, including a prime chance at 1:17 off a slap shot by Sharp.

Carolina didn't get a shot on goal until Nathan Gerbe had one at 11:20 during a Blackhawks power play, but the Hurricanes steadily overtook that statistical category as the game progressed.

"We got it going as it went on," Eric Staal said. "They came out strong. We wanted to be a little bit better, but we improved the second half of the first and got more pucks to the net and our forecheck was a little better. I thought we got a lot better in the second and the third."

Sharp finally solved Khudobin at 3:09 of the second, scoring his 30th goal of the season. Andrew Shaw knocked down a shot in the Chicago zone and found Sharp with a pass as he headed up the middle of the ice. He split a pair of defenders with a burst of speed and used a quick deke to the backhand to beat Khudobin for a 1-0 lead. It was the second goal in 15 games for Sharp, who's reached 30 goals four times in his NHL career.

Versteeg made it 2-0 with 3:34 left in the second by scoring his 11th goal, and the Blackhawks appeared headed toward a comfortable win.

Semin snapped them back to reality with 38 seconds left in the second when he scored his fifth goal in the past 10 games and made Chicago pay for an ill-timed line change. Semin scored again 2:58 into the third, tying it 2-2 with his second of the game during a 5-on-3 power play, but Toews countered 31 seconds later with Michal Handzus still in the penalty box.

"It's disappointing because our margin of error is a little slim right now," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "We're right in it [in the third], but we come down and we missed the net. They come right back at us and we give up a bad goal right off of tying the game there."

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