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Hawks salvage two points with 6-5 shootout win

by John Kreiser
The Chicago Blackhawks let the San Jose Sharks escape the United Center with a point. Thanks to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, they left with two of their own.

The Hawks blew leads of 4-1 and 5-3 to the Sharks, allowing San Jose to tie the game on Joe Thornton's goal with 2:08 left in regulation. But shootout goals by Kane and Toews gave the Hawks a 6-5 victory on Wednesday night, moving them into fourth place in the Western Conference.

"We did it the hard way," Chicago forward Martin Havlat said. "But we got two points. It doesn't matter who we played."

After Kane scored to give Chicago the lead opening the shootout, a shot by San Jose's Joe Pavelski hit the crossbar and stayed out. Toews then beat San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, and Nikolai Khabibulin secured the Hawks' second consecutive win after a five-game winless streak by snuffing former Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick.

"We're looking forward to getting back on track," Ladd said. "We're getting confidence back in this room -- slowly."

The win gives the Blackhawks 89 points, two ahead of Vancouver for fourth in the West. Each team has 10 games remaining -- including a visit by the Canucks to the United Center on Sunday.

The single point was a big one for the Sharks, who matched Detroit with 107 and have played one fewer game. They visit Nashville on Thursday.

"Simple game when you work hard and stick to your plan," said forward Devin Setoguchi, who scored twice. "We didn't start out that way and were down 4-1 before we got down to the basics."

After early goals by Havlat and Setoguchi, the Hawks scored three in a row. Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd beat Nabokov 61 seconds apart midway through the first period for the Hawks, and Toews had the rebound of Cam Barker's shot carom off him into the net at 8:27 of the second.

But Jamie McGinn cut the margin to 4-2 just 15 seconds later, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic's shot hit Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook and went into the net at 11:27 to make it 4-3.

Ladd snapped a shot past Nabokov 5:25 into the third period for his second of the night and a seemingly safe 5-3 Chicago lead. But Setoguchi scored on a breakaway with 5:07 left in regulation, and Thornton bulled past Seabrook, cut into the slot and beat Khabibulin to tie it.

"I just went to the net. That's pretty much it. I just drove wide and shot and it just happened to go to the back of the net," Thornton said. "Maybe Brent was a little flatfooted on that play. He's pretty good defenseman."

Ducks 7, Avalanche 2 | Video

Anaheim needed overtime or a shootout for three of its victories during the four-game winning streak it brought to Denver. No such heroics were necessary against the last-place Avalanche, as Corey Perry scored twice and Andrew Ebbett had a goal and two assists to lead the rout.

James Wisniewski added three assists to help the Ducks move into seventh in the West, one point ahead of Edmonton and two in front of Nashville and Minnesota.

"Tonight was huge for us, with the playoff race we are in with Nashville, Edmonton,
Minnesota, Dallas," Perry said. "Every two points count, every point counts. That’s our goal for the rest of the season -- see how far we can get and see how far up the standings we can climb."

The Ducks made it look easy. Eric Christensen cruised into the Colorado zone and beat Peter Budaj with a wrist shot 2:11 into the game. Teemu Selanne and Perry scored late in the period to make it 3-0.

"Unacceptable, embarrassing and disappointing," Avs forward Ryan Smyth said of the first-period performance.

Andrew Raycroft replaced Budaj to start the second period, but the goals kept coming. Perry, Ebbett and Rob Niedermayer scored in a six-minute span to make it 6-0 before Milan Hedjuk got Colorado on the board at 11:31. Petteri Nokelainen stole the puck in the neutral zone, went in unimpeded and scored at 13:25 for a 7-1 lead. Cody McLeod's third-period goal was window dressing for the struggling Avs.

"It was just one of those nights," Perry said. "We were shooting the puck and they were going in the net, playing our game and we were getting some favorable bounces, which hasn’t really happened in a while. It’s just one of those nights -- but you can’t depend on that every night. It comes from hard work, and that’s what we have to do."

Colorado has lost five in a row for the second time this season, and was blown out at home for the second-straight game. The Avs lost 8-1 to Edmonton last week.

"They got a couple of goals we probably should have found a way to keep out of our net," Avs coach Tony Granato said. "We couldn't find a way to counter what went into our net."

Wild 6, Islanders 2 | Video

Marian Gaborik showed the Wild -- and the rest of the NHL -- what they were missing without him. Gaborik had two goals and two assists in his second game back after hip surgery to lead the Wild to a desperately needed win on Long Island.

The win jumped the Wild into 10th place; Minnesota and Nashville both have 78 points, one behind eighth-place Edmonton and two in back of Anaheim, but the Wild have played one more game.

"We had to get this game no matter what and just do our job defensively and make sure that we're disciplined," Gaborik said. "There were some players running around, but that's what it is."

Gaborik had his team's only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday. This time, he tied the game with his first goal at 11:46 of the opening period, set up goals by Owen Nolan in the second and Andrew Brunette in the third before scoring a late power-play goal to complete the scoring as Minnesota matched its biggest offensive output of the season against the 30th-place Islanders.

Minnesota scored three power-play goals in a game that saw 23 penalties and lots of power plays.

"It's a team that really has got nothing to play for so you have guys going out there kind of not really caring if they take stupid penalties at stupid times," Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck said. "That's what they did and it cost them. It's a good thing nobody got hurt."

Antti Miettinen's power-play goal late in the first period put the Wild ahead to stay. Martin Skoula scored early in the third period for Minnesota, which had averaged just two goals a game while going 2-7-2 in its last 11 away from the Xcel Energy Center.

The Islanders, last in the NHL with 56 points, had been playing well at the Nassau Coliseum -- going 9-2-2 in their previous 13 home games. But they did little after taking the early lead on a goal by defenseman Bruno Gervais. Andy Hilbert's third-period goal made it 4-2.

"It's a disappointing game tonight," Hilbert said. "We've been playing well lately. It's a tough loss, we just have to learn from it, and move on and get back to work tomorrow."

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

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