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Hawks douse Flames 4-1

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO – If you include Thursday's win in Columbus, it's already been a good weekend for Chicago Blackhawks defensemen -- and there's still a game left on Sunday.

One day after Steve Montador recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Blue Jackets, two more familiar Blackhawks blueliners and goalie Ray Emery led the way in Friday's 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames in front of 21,720 at the United Center.

Duncan Keith – playing in his 500th career game – and Brent Seabrook both scored for the first time this season, while Viktor Stalberg scored his fourth goal and Patrick Kane had his sixth into an empty net. Emery stopped 24 shots for his third win.

Patrick Sharp chipped in three assists and both Daniel Carcillo and Marian Hossa had two for the Hawks (10-4-3), who host the Edmonton Oilers at home on Sunday before heading out on their annual six-game "Circus Trip" that takes them to Western Canada and California.

"It feels good," said Keith, whose goal was the 250th point of his career and put Chicago up 1-0 midway through the first period. "I thought the whole team played great tonight. It was a really fast pace out there on both sides and it was nice to get the first one and grab momentum for our team."

After Sunday, Chicago will only have one more home game this month – on Nov. 29 against the Phoenix Coyotes. That's why there was extra incentive to pick up as many points as possible this weekend.

Thus far, the Hawks haven't disappointed. They dominated the Blue Jackets in a 6-3 win on Thursday and came back home a day later to douse the Flames (6-8-1) – upping their record in the tail end of back-to-back games this season to an impressive 3-0-1.

Despite playing a second straight game without two-way center Dave Bolland, who's day-to-day with an injured foot, Chicago took care of business against Calgary – which had three new faces in the lineup because of injuries to Anton Babchuk (broken hand) and Brendan Morrison (knee).

Emery played a big role for Chicago after not playing since Nov. 4. If there was any rust to shake off, it didn't show. The veteran backup was sharp from the beginning to the end in spelling starter Corey Crawford.

"A week's not too bad," Emery said of the layoff. "You get a chance to recover and you get a chance to prepare for the team you're coming up against. Once it gets longer than that, that's when it gets tough."

Arguably his biggest save came in the second period, not long after Seabrook scored early on a power play to make it 2-0 at 12:11. Montador lost the puck at the Chicago blue line and Calgary's Curtis Glencross pounced on it for a mini-break through the slot.

Emery didn't bite on a hard deke and snap shot from about 15 feet out and made the save with his chest protector before swatting away the puck. Had Glencross scored, it could've been a much different story – especially when you consider Olli Jokinen scored the Flames' lone goal midway through the third to cut Chicago's lead to 2-1.

"I had a chance to kind of see the play developing, so I kind of got out and tried to stay big," Emery said. "I don't think he had too much to shoot at, so I just tried to stay patient."

The Hawks, however, got a little too patient in the third – which led to Jokinen's goal at the 10:50 mark, scored off a one-timer from the slot. That seemed to wake up both teams, but Calgary made a push to tie it. The Hawks withstood it until Stalberg scored with 3:11 left by redirecting a nice pass from Hossa past Miikka Kiprusoff (27 saves). Kane added his empty-net goal with four seconds left to provide the final margin.

Still, the plaudits went to Emery and the Hawks' defense – which is starting to produce more offense.

"I thought Ray was special for us, a big part of us getting two points," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think offensively, as a group of defensemen, we were looking for more (in previous games), but the offense comes from doing your job (defensively)."

Keith's goal was a good example. It happened shortly after Chicago killed off Calgary's lone power play with some blocked shots and big stops by Emery. Once the teams were at even strength, the Hawks got control of the puck and Sharp fired a shot from the right circle that Kiprusoff stopped. The puck skipped past Daniel Carcillo – who was moving in for the rebound – and slid out to the left circle. Keith got to it and launched a slap shot from 45 feet away that sailed into the net over the sprawled Kiprusoff.

Seabrook's goal at 7:49 of the second pushed it to 2-0 and set the stage for Emery's huge save against Glencross on the breakaway.

All in all, It was another frustrating night at "Madhouse on Madison" for Calgary, which lost for the seventh straight time here in the regular season and hasn't beaten Chicago in this building since March 16, 2008. It was also the Flames' second straight loss and third in the last four games.

"We had opportunities and we never capitalized on them," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We had a couple breakdowns that cost us two goals. At the end of the night, that's the outcome of the game. We had chances and we've got to bury them – especially in that second period, when we had those couple opportunities and didn't capitalize in a tight game."
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