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Hawks get five in first, blitz Canucks 6-3

by John Kreiser

Joel Quenneville is a master of understatement.

After watching his team turn a much-anticipated showdown with Vancouver into a rout with five goals in the opening 20 minutes, Quenneville's appraisal of his team was a simple one: "The first period was really good."

"Really good" doesn't begin to cover the way the Hawks turned what was expected to be a close game into an easier-than-the-score would-indicate 6-3 victory. Chicago got goals from six different players -- none of them named Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews -- and the outcome of the battle between division leaders was never in doubt after the opening period.

Andrew Ladd, Duncan Keith and Troy Brouwer gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead before the game was 11 minutes old. Ryan Kesler got one back at 14:09, but Kris Versteeg made it 4-1 just 59 seconds later, and Jordan Hendry capped the blitz with his first of the season at 19:17.

"It's definitely not the way we wanted to start this game," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We wanted to play a disciplined game like we did in Detroit, and that wasn't the case tonight.

"Without a doubt, in the first period they were the much better team. They got Grade A chances and were able to bury those chances."

The five-goal blitz was enough to send gold medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo to the bench after the first period in favor of Andrew Raycroft.

"It was a good start. We put ourselves in a good position," Quenneville said. "We knew it was going to be an important game, and I liked our response of being ready and welcoming the challenge of how we had to play. We did a lot of good things."

The last two periods were academic. Alex Burrows scored early in the second period and Mikael Samuelsson got one late in the third for Vancouver; Marian Hossa got the Hawks' other goal 16:55 into the middle period.

"The pace of the first period, compared with the other two, was definitely not the same," Quenneville said. "We did what we had to do."

The win also moved the Blackhawks back into first place in the Western Conference. The Hawks and San Jose Sharks both have 91 points, but Chicago has two more victories. The Canucks are still on top of the Northwest Division with 80 points, two more that Colorado.

The Canucks, who won Tuesday at Columbus and Wednesday at Detroit, fell to 6-5-0 on their historic 14-game road trip. They have three more stops before returning home against Ottawa next Saturday.

"It was a playoff atmosphere tonight, and we just couldn't respond the way you need to to be successful in this type of game," Vigneault said.

"There was nothing about this game that I liked."

Luongo made three tough saves during an early 5-on-3 Chicago power play, then allowed a soft goal to Ladd at 3:48. Ladd shoveled a backhander on goal from the right boards that deflected off the shaft of Luongo's stick and trickled in.

The Blackhawks then took charge after killing a 5-on-3 Vancouver advantage a few minutes later. Keith's 40-footer during a power play made it 2-0 at 10:22, and Brouwer rammed home a loose puck 31 seconds later after Luongo deflected Niklas Hjalmarsson's pass.

Kesler fooled Cristobal Huet with a screened shot from right circle with 5:51 left to cut it to 3-1. But Versteeg restored the three-goal lead when he skated unchecked from left wing, cut across the crease and beat Luongo high on the glove side. Hendry, a defenseman, scored his first goal of the season with 43 seconds left when he took a centering pass from Toews and drove down the slot to the net.

"Jordan Hendry scored the highlight goal for me," Quenneville said. "Great play, with speed. Nice finish.

It was the second time in his last three visits to the UnitedCenter that Luongo was routed. He surrendered seven goals in the sixth and final game of the Blackhawks' second-round playoff win last spring.

"He's a great goaltender, and we wanted to throw as many pucks at the net as we could, with traffic, and hope some good things happen," Versteeg said. "In that first period, they did."

Said Luongo, who was pulled for the third time in his last 11 starts: "It was very disappointing. They came out strong and scored some goals, and that was pretty much the game. I felt good, I felt sharp, but the goals kept going in."

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

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