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Hawks shut down struggling Flames 3-1

by Todd Kimberley

CALGARY -- After a clunker in Ottawa, the Chicago Blackhawks found just the right place to get back on track -- the Pengrowth Saddledome, their home away from home.

Two days after a lethargic 4-1 loss to the Senators -- a defeat that coach Joel Quenneville called the worst game of their 's season -- the Hawks rebounded on Thursday night in Calgary by beating the struggling Flames 3-1 before 19,289 disappointed fans at the Saddledome.

"We didn't play very well in Ottawa, and we all knew that," said Hawks forward Ben Eager, who was credited with the winning goal at 5:52 of the third period after Tomas Kopecky's centering pass glanced off his skate and past a startled Miikka Kiprusoff.

"Tonight, we were skating. We were hitting. We were playing our type of game," Eager said. "I think everyone showed up to play tonight."

At 35-12-4, the Hawks remained two points behind San Jose for first place overall in the NHL. The Sharks stayed in front by beating Anaheim 3-1.

The Hawks have won four of five and are 3-1-0 at the halfway point of an eight-game, cross-continent road trip that will take them through Vancouver, Edmonton, San Jose and Carolina before they get back to the United Center.

Chicago has also reeled off seven consecutive regular-season wins against the Flames -- and six straight at the Saddledome -- in addition to ousting Calgary during a six-game, first-round playoff series last spring.

"Tonight we were ready, with good energy. It was kind of the response we were looking for," Quenneville said.

Patrick Kane opened the scoring with his 21st goal of the season at 9:14 of the second period, making up for a missed penalty shot 7:39 into the game that saw the Buffalo native foiled by Kiprusoff's quick glove hand.

Jamie Lundmark tied it with 1:29 left in the second period by tapping home a power-play rebound.

After Eager put Chicago ahead, Duncan Keith hit the empty net with 37.4 seconds left to seal the victory.

Things continue to fall apart for the Flames (29-19-6), who dropped to ninth place in the West. Three days after absorbing their worst defeat in nine years, they're now riding their first six-game losing streak in more than seven seasons.

Lack of offense continues to be a problem. The Flames have scored just 15 times in nine games -- and only twice in their last three at the Saddledome, where they're now a pedestrian 12-11-3.

"When your team is having a tough time getting contributions offensively from everyone, you've got to be rock-solid in other areas," coach Brent Sutter said. "I'm upset about the mistakes (we) make that cost (us) games. They're mistakes that we can't make.

"Did we have a good effort? We're supposed to have a good effort every night."

It was a better effort than their last game. Calgary was coming off a 9-1 pummeling at San Jose on Monday -- the Flames' largest margin of defeat since an 8-0 home loss to San Jose on Dec. 4, 2000.

But Sutter's team now has lost six straight -- the first time that's happened since Nov. 7-21, 2002, when they dropped seven in a row - and eight of its last nine.

They wasted an excellent effort by Miikka Kiprusoff, who stopped 25 shots -- including a penalty shot -- and was blameless on the goals.

"We do have to find ways to score goals in front of 'Kipper.' All of us, myself included, need to find our games, and do it quickly," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who picked up an assist but is goalless in 10 games. "We've got to find our games. We've got to find our offensive side. We're better than this offensively. There's no excuses in here."

Kiprusoff was at his best in the second period, holding his team in the game with 10 stops.

"We had some good chances. Kiprusoff played really good, I thought," Kane said. "That was probably one of the best (performances) we've seen from him, to be honest. We've kind of had his number the last couple of games.

"Both of our goals were kind of bing-bang plays . . . nothing he could really do about it."

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