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Lack's 35 saves help Hurricanes defeat Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Carolina Hurricanes can feel things coming together, and it's boosting their confidence.

Carolina's 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday was the latest example. The Hurricanes won despite being outshot 36-27, but goalie Eddie Lack made 35 saves in his first appearance since Dec. 15.

Carolina (15-16-5) came out of the Christmas break by sweeping a back-to-back for the fourth time this season; the Hurricanes defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at PNC Center on Saturday. They have won three of their past four and are 7-4-1 in December.

"We're starting to get something going," said forward Kris Versteeg, who helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup last June before he was traded to the Hurricanes in the offseason. "I think everyone's starting to understand what it takes to play in this League, each and every day, and we're finding ways to win even in tough buildings like [this] on a back-to-back."

Defenseman Justin Faulk and center Victor Rask scored for Carolina. Lack made 11 saves in the first period, six in the second and 18 in the third before Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook, playing his 800th NHL game, scored with three seconds remaining.

Carolina beat the Blackhawks (20-13-4) for the first time since Oct. 28, 2011, a 3-0 win at PNC Arena. It was the Hurricanes' first victory in Chicago since Jan. 30, 2010, a 4-2 win at United Center.

"We're going the right way," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "I made the mistake of watching our game against Chicago last year in this building [a 5-2 loss], and I had to turn it off. We're a better team than we were at that time and we play more of a puck-possession game. We have the puck more [and] we look to hold onto it more."

The Blackhawks had the puck most of the time, finishing with a 70-44 edge in total shot attempts. Lack's saves plus 21 blocked shots by the Hurricanes kept the puck out of the net, and the Blackhawks helped by missing the net 13 times.

Corey Crawford made 25 saves for Chicago, which was nearly shut out in back-to-back games. The Blackhawks, who were off for four days off during the break, fell to 2-4-0 when they have three or more days between games.

"I think everyone was well-rested, so that should be to our advantage," said right wing Marian Hossa, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury. "Obviously, we didn't take advantage. This game, we should've played a little different. We didn't have enough bodies going to the net and sacrificing to get the ugly goals."

The game was scoreless after the first period.

Chicago's fourth line, led by rookie center Phillip Danault, had five of the Blackhawks' 11 shots in the period and nearly opened the scoring on attempts by Danault and Ryan Garbutt off rushes.

Crawford was sharp as well. He made several pad saves to deny goals off slap shots, including a one-timer by Versteeg at 5:30 from the right circle.

Faulk opened the scoring at 19:41 of the second period with his 14th goal of the season and second in as many games. Faulk, who tied the San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns for most goals by a defenseman, scored by shooting the puck through the legs of both Seabrook and Crawford.

"It was a huge goal," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We get out of that period [tied], we're still [OK]. We had the quality [scoring chances]. We missed some great chances, but they're a dangerous team, as well. That was a pivotal goal."

Rask made it 2-0 at 4:48 of the third with his 10th goal, a wrist shot that beat Crawford high to the glove side. It turned out to be the game-winner when Seabrook's shot trickled past Lack.

"It's huge," Peters said of Rask's goal. "Anytime you can get a two-goal lead, it changes things a little bit. You don't have to use your timeout on some of those icings. If it's 1-0, you're probably using your timeout there. It just changes things."

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