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'Hawks get back to winning ways

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
The Chicago Blackhawks put a week full of hoopla and a disappointing result in the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic behind them Sunday and got back to what they spent most of the past month doing: winning hockey games.

Martin Havlat, Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp all finished with a goal and an assist, and Nikolai Khabibulin made 32 saves as the Blackhawks broke the game open in the second period and went on to a 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames at the United Center.

Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien all scored during a three-goal second for Chicago that turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead. Versteeg's goal came shorthanded, with Calgary pressing to draw even.

The Blackhawks had won a franchise-record nine straight games before losing both ends of a home-and-home last week against their Central Division rivals, the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. The second game, a 6-4 loss at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day, could have been debilitating, but the 'Hawks bounced right back despite playing without young star Patrick Kane.

"I think we talked about coming out hard in the first period and trying to create our own energy and enthusiasm," said defenseman Duncan Keith, who chipped in a pair of assists.

Todd Bertuzzi and Daymond Langkow scored for the Flames, but the Blackhawks beat them for the third straight time this season. They also snapped a 10-game points streak for Calgary, which hadn't lost in regulation since Dec. 9 at Montreal.

Kane, who was injured against Detroit on Tuesday and probably would have sat out the following game had it not been the Winter Classic, missed the first game of his NHL career with a high-ankle sprain.

"He's day-to-day and we'll give you a clearer idea (Monday)," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said in discussing Kane's status. "We expect him to be coming on the road, so we'll get a better idea then."

The Blackhawks would like to have Kane for a three-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Phoenix, but they managed just fine without him Sunday. Havlat got them on the board 3:26 into the first when he took a cross-ice pass from Keith and partially fanned on his one-timer from the right circle. That seemed to throw off Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, and the puck slid inside the right post for Havlat's 11th goal of the season.

Bertuzzi, who scored in the final half minute Saturday to lead Calgary past Nashville, notched the tying goal at 1:09 of the second when he deflected a Dion Phaneuf shot from the right point. But Chicago took control after that and owned the remainder of the period.

Ladd notched the go-ahead goal with 5:53 to play, connecting from the slot following a crisp passing play with Havlat and Keith. But less than a minute later the Flames went on the power play after a tripping call on Aaron Johnson. Versteeg took advantage when Phaneuf lost the puck at the point, going in on a partial breakaway and shaking off defenseman Adrian Aucoin to stuff a shot between Kiprusoff's pads with 4:34 left.

"With Kaner out, guys have to step up, kind of do it by committee," Ladd said. "If it's me tonight and another guy the next night, that's what we need."

Byfuglien added a crippling goal when he scored on the power play with just 1.1 seconds remaining, giving the Blackhawks a three-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes of play. Langkow got one back on a Flames' man advantage at 6:23 but Sharp's empty-netter with 1:41 remaining capped the offense for the night.

Khabibulin, who stopped all 11 first-period shots he against him and then faced just five in the second, was on top of his game down the stretch, making 19 saves in the third.

"They played well in that third period," Quenneville said of the Flames. "I thought Habby was very sharp, kept us in there. … They were coming and we were fortunate to protect that lead. He was very responsible for that as well."

 
 
Kiprusoff was pulled after the second period despite stopping 24 of 28 shots. Curtis McElhinney made seven saves in the third.

"We came back strong in the third, but it was a little late," Calgary coach Mike Keenan said. It's hard when you get that far behind."

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





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