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Hawks' surge continues

by Brian Hunter /
The Chicago Blackhawks are off to their best start since the 2001-02 season. Nikolai Khabibulin has led his team to at least a point in his last six starts.

Not too shabby for a team that changed coaches in the season's opening weeks and a goaltender who was put on waivers during training camp.

Andrew Ladd scored two goals and added an assist while Khabibulin turned aside 24 shots to key a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at the United Center.

Patrick Sharp also tallied twice, Troy Brouwer added his first NHL goal and Cam Barker had a power-play score as the Blackhawks improved to 6-3-3 following an 1-2-1 start that would lead to the dismissal of Denis Savard as coach.

Joel Quenneville improved to 5-1-1 since taking over behind Chicago's bench and the Blackhawks made him a winner against the team he coached for the past three seasons.

"It's a big game for him and he was fired up. We kind of fed off that," Ladd said after the Blackhawks won for the third time in four nights. "It's huge. It's tough having back-to-back and three in four is even tougher, so to get six points out of it, we're pretty happy."

Khabibulin, who is on a 4-0-2 run, appeared expendable after the Blackhawks brought in big-name free-agent goalie Cristobal Huet over the summer. In the final season of a four-year contract, he found himself on waivers after not playing in a single preseason game, but suddenly is a big part of the team's turnaround.

Milan Hejduk scored his eighth of the season for the Avalanche, who also received a goal from Ben Guite that opened the scoring with 3:38 left in the opening period.

''The last 30 minutes of the game were pretty tough to watch,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ''The first 30 minutes we came and played with intensity and had chance to win.''

Ladd tied the game 3:54 into the second, ripping the rebound of a Dustin Byfuglien shot from the slot past Peter Budaj, and Brouwer notched the go-ahead goal 2:19 before intermission. Sharp's shot glanced off the back of his leg and rolled toward the goal, and Brouwer, playing in his 18th career game, stuffed it in.

"He's doing the things that we need him to do," Quenneville said. "He's got some good size, got good hands, and go to the net, things happen. I think we scored some goals over the weekend similar to that … but you get on the board after an ordinary first period, I think it certainly helped."

Barker extended the lead to 3-1 with the Blackhawks skating a man up 1:21 into the third. Hejduk answered 52 seconds later as the Avalanche closed back to within one, but Sharp got his first of two with 9:28 remaining to begin a late offensive surge. Ladd's second came with 4:12 left and Sharp lit the lamp again with 2:34 to play.

"It's nice when the pucks are going in," said Ladd. "It creates more energy when the crowd's into it. It makes it much easier to play."

Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 3, OT | Video

Chris Campoli scored his second of the game 3:13 into overtime Monday as New York avoided the same nightmare finish two games in a row at Nassau Coliseum.

Campoli's first goal, a shorthanded tally with 5:45 left in the second period, gave the Islanders a 3-0 lead over Columbus heading into the third. But the Blue Jackets' Marc Methot ended Joey MacDonald's shutout bid at 3:44 and R.J. Umberger tallied a pair of goals to force overtime.

It was the second straight game in which the Islanders let a three-goal, third-period lead slip away -- Montreal came back with four goals Saturday to turn a 4-1 lead by New York into a 5-4 defeat.

"At the time it's tough, I'm not going to lie to you," captain Bill Guerin said of the squandered lead. "It's kind of like, 'Here we go again.' But then you get the win in overtime. Out of the last six periods of hockey, we've played four really good periods."

The difference this time was Campoli had an answer. Actually, he had two. Campoli corralled a loose puck in the Blue Jackets' zone and fired a shot that appeared to get in past Fredrik Norrena. Campoli waved his arms in the air but the officials didn't signal a goal. So Campoli just scored again, taking a pass and drilling one that clearly beat Norrena. Later, a video review would confirm Campoli had indeed scored the first time around.

"I saw it go inside the post," said Campoli, who missed a chunk of last season and the first five games of this one. "It was a bizarre play that it came back to me and I put it in again. Everyone's joking that I had a hat trick. I'd take one, don't get me wrong. Nothing surprises us anymore."

Richard Park opened the scoring 3:08 into the second with his first goal of the season, then set up Guerin's goal at 10:16 for a 2-0 lead. Guerin had just skated out of the penalty box after serving a minor for tripping when he took Park's lead pass and beat Norrena, skating to the right after the goalie came out to try to cut down the angle.

Campoli, who hadn't scored since Dec. 29, 2007, slammed in a loose puck from the slot during a Columbus power play.

Methot started the Jackets' rally with his second of the season and Umberger followed 1:12 later with his first of two. Umberger evened the score with 8:58 left to set up a frantic finish, where Campoli put an end to an 0-5-1 skid by the Islanders.

"The biggest thing we did was outwork them," Columbus captain Rick Nash said. "It showed we have a lot of character and we don't give up."

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

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