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Chicago Blackhawks end 5-game winless streak, beat Los Angeles Kings
For one game, at least, everything was right in the Blackhawks' world.
Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat were offensive forces, Brent Seabrook was hitting everything that moved and Nikolai Khabibulin was solid in goal.
It was just like the glory days of long ago — say, December — as the Hawks snapped their five-game winless streak with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday at the United Center.
Sharp returned after missing 16 games with a left knee injury to score two goals and add an assist, Havlat had two goals and Duncan Keith had three assists as the Hawks won for just the fourth time in their last 14 games. The Hawks earned two critical points in the Western Conference playoff race and are two ahead of idle Vancouver for fourth place — and home-ice advantage in the first round — with 11 games to play.
Sharp's return gave the team and the sellout crowd of 21,629 a boost. The arena erupted when the veteran winger scored the game's first goal midway through the first period. After scoring, Sharp leaped against the boards as teammates raced to surround him.
"It was nice to score the first one, and I got pretty excited," said Sharp, who beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick from the left circle for his first goal since Feb. 11. "It feels good to be back. Before the game I just wanted to come in and play a strong game and not necessarily worry about scoring goals and making plays, but just play hard with energy. Luckily pucks went in."
After Havlat made it 2-0 off a give-and-go with Sharp early in the second, Khabibulin and the defense clamped down, allowing only a power-play score by Drew Doughty late in the third. Sharp and Havlat added empty-net goals for the final margin.
"It was a long time since we won a game," Havlat said. "We knew it was going to come sooner or later. We were working hard. We were much smarter the whole game than the few games before that. We were just trying to make easy plays and not trying to look for any fancy ones. We had to start at the basics and keep it simple."
The Kings were limited to 15 shots against Khabibulin, who snapped a personal three-game skid.
"That was our best defensive game in some time," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Khabby was solid and very confident in his positioning. He was good all game long.
"We had more patience in our own end, and we were comfortable in some situations where it looked like it could have been dangerous. Our defensive thought process in the offensive zone all the way to our end was very efficient."
Seabrook led the way defensively, handing out a game-high seven hits, as the Kings mustered five shots on goal in each period.
"Our forwards did a great job of coming back and helping us out," Seabrook said. "We tried to break up as much as we could off the rush. If [the Kings] did get a shot and there was a rebound, the forwards seemed to be back to help us out to clear pucks.
"We took it to them physically. It was a good all-around game."