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Dubielewicz earns first win with Columbus

by Staff
The Columbus Blue Jackets' march toward the franchise's first-ever postseason berth is rolling right along.

Antoine Vermette scored a pair of goals and Wade Dubielewicz stopped 27 shots for his first win of the season as Columbus set a single-season record for victories by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 on Friday night.

Kristian Huselius, Raffi Torres and Rick Nash also had goals as the Blue Jackets were able to rest rookie goaltender Steve Mason and still come out of the United Center with two points. Their 36th win bested the previous mark set in 2005-06 and kept them one point in back of Vancouver for fifth place in the Western Conference.

''For me personally, it was a big thing for Hitch (Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock) believing I could come in and play down the stretch here,'' said Dubielewicz, who played much of the season in Russia and was claimed by the Jackets on waivers in January after being bought out. ''It was a great thrill, especially when you've got a guy like Mase, who plays 90-95 percent of the games.''

Brent Seabrook, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks, who would have home ice for the first round if the playoffs started today, but saw their lead for fourth shrink to four points over the Canucks and five over the Jackets.

Dubielewicz had appeared in only two games since the Jackets claimed him off re-entry waivers from the Islanders -- a relief appearance against Dallas on Jan. 31 and a start he lost to Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. Mason, who leads the NHL with nine shutouts, had started the Jackets' previous 14 games.

''We needed him and he stepped up,'' Hitchcock said of his backup. ''That's what happens when you're part of the team.''

Vermette's second of the night and third goal in two games put Columbus ahead to stay with 2:16 left in the second period. Fedor Tyutin's power-play shot from the left circle deflected through traffic in front and Vermette was able to score from the right edge of the crease for a 3-2 lead.

''Since I got here, the guys have made it easy on me. Everyone is working hard and working the same way,'' said Vermette, who has six points in four games since a Deadline Day trade from Ottawa. ''I couldn't ask for anything for better than that. Guys are playing pretty well with good structure.

''I've been luck enough to never miss one playoff. Having a chance to join this group of guys and make a pretty good push, I'm pretty happy about it.''

Torres made it a two-goal game early in the third, driving to the net and scoring off the rebound of Michael Peca's shot from the right corner at 3:50.

Kane drew the Blackhawks closer on a power play with 5:57 remaining and they enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage in the final minute after R.J. Umberger was called for slashing and Cristobal Huet came to the bench for an extra attacker. But Nash scored into the empty net with 19 seconds to play as the Jackets survived.

Vermette gave Columbus the early jump, beating Huet on a rebound 45 seconds after the opening faceoff. Huet, who made 17 saves, had stopped Umberger and Jan Hejda before Vermette scored from just outside the crease. Huselius netted his 20th of the season at 11:02, freezing Huet with a great deke before putting a backhander into a wide-open net.

Chicago erased that 2-0 deficit in the opening minutes of the second period. Seabrook scored his first goal since Jan. 16, a drive from the point at 1:42 that came just two seconds after a power play expired. Versteeg tied it when he deflected Duncan Keith's shot past Dubielewicz for his 19th of the season on a man advantage at 3:22.

''We had a good finish, but to be successful in this league you have to have a good start,'' Seabrook said. ''Any time you give up two goals early and don't respond in the first period, it's pretty tough to come back in this league.''

Canucks 4, Kings 2

On most nights, Henrik is the playmaking half of the Sedin twins. This time, he became the goal-scorer, getting a pair in 30 seconds midway through the third period as the Canucks won their eighth in a row at home to remain in fifth place in the Western Conference.

The Canucks remained one point ahead of Columbus, which beat Chicago earlier in the night, and moved within four points of the Blackhawks for fourth place and the final home-ice spot in the first round. The victory ended a two-game slide for the Canucks and atoned for a loss at Los Angeles on Monday.

"Our goal is to make the playoffs," Daniel Sedin said. "To do that, we have to beat this kind of team."

The Canucks had blown a 2-0 lead earlier in the period when Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar scored 26 seconds apart, with Kopitar tying the game at 7:16 when Roberto Luongo missed his shot from the left boards.

But Henrik Sedin put the Canucks back in front at 8:44, one-timing the puck into a wide-open net after a perfect backhand pass from Ryan Kesler for his 100th career goal and first in nine games. He got No. 101 at 9:14 with a highlight-reel move, gloving down a pass and racing into the Kings' zone, spinning left and then right, then whipping a shot through the legs of befuddled defenseman Sean O'Donnell and past Jonathan Quick.

"They made a push and we pushed back," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "They put us in a position where we definitely had to respond. I don't think Hank had scored in a while."

Vancouver came out on fire, forcing Quick to stop a pair of 2-on-1s and a breakaway by Kyle Wellwood before Los Angeles got its first shot at 6:47. But after Quick's early heroics, he was the culprit when the Canucks got on the board at 10:39. The young goaltender misplayed Taylor Pyatt's dump-in, allowing the puck to bounce into the crease where Alex Burrows tapped it in.

"They dumped it in, and I took a look up ice trying to figure out what I wanted to do," Quick said. "It took a weird bounce, I was late to see it and someone put it in."

The first period was a big change for the Canucks, who dug holes for themselves earlier in the week in losses at Los Angeles and Anaheim.

"We came out the way we wanted," Vigneault said. "We forced them to take penalties and got two past them."

The Canucks made it 2-0 at 17:58 during a two-man advantage. Kevin Bieksa's slap shot hit Quick in the chest, popped into the air and came down at the feet of Mats Sundin, who rammed it into the wide-open net. They finished the period with a 20-3 advantage in shots.

Kings coach Terry Murray said he wasted little time between periods telling his players that their first-period performance was unacceptable.

"I came in and talked right away about how the compete level had to come higher," he said. "Their board play was much stronger than ours was. We were not skating. Their forwards were taking the puck off our sticks on breakouts. We were not making it happen for ourselves.

"We addressed the intensity and the need to know that everything was on the line for us. If we want to stay in the hunt, we had to pick things up."

After a scoreless second period, the Kings came alive in the third. Frolov got them on the board at 6:40 with a spectacular move, barging out of the right corner and into the slot before beating Luongo with a backhander. The Canucks were still recovering from that goal when Kopitar caught Luongo cheating away from his post to tie the game.

The loss was damaging to the Kings' slim playoff hopes. They remained in 13th place in the West, five points out of a playoff spot. It was their first loss in four games, but their fifth straight on the road, where they are 13-16-1 this season. That's not a good sign for a team that plays 11 of its final 15 games away from home, starting in San Jose on Saturday night.

"I don’t know if we're any worse off than we were before the game," Murray said. "We know we have to win a lot of games in order to get in there. That's the attitude we have to bring. We have to win games. It's not just a matter of getting points in three-point games. We need to get wins."

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

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