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Blackhawks roar back to life
It's not a good idea to give any team eight power plays in one period, let alone a team riding an eight-game winning streak and playing the best hockey in the NHL.
Yet there were the Blackhawks on Friday night, one after another, trudging off to the penalty boxsometimes to join a teammate already there.
Calgary had eight straight power plays and four two-man advantages in the opening 20 minutes but managed only a pair of goals.
That was enough to put some wind in the Hawks' sails as they controlled the rest of the game for a 5-2 victory, easily their most impressive of the season.
The Hawks opened their five-game trip with their fourth victory in their last five games. The trip continues Saturday night in Edmonton.
Mark Bell, continuing his recent hot play, and Mark Cullen each scored two goals and Nikolai Khabibulin turned in another solid outing, keeping the Hawks close in the first period.
"We wanted to stay positive," Bell said after the first period, in which the Hawks trailed 2-1. "Killing eight penalties in one period isn't good against any team. We felt fortunate to be down 2-1."
Cullen's first goal, at the 15-minute-19-second mark of the first period, tied the game 1-1 after Roman Hamrlik's power-play goal put Calgary ahead. The goal was an important psychological boost, even after Chuck Kobasew put the Flames back in front at 19:30 of the first.
The Hawks were down, but it could have been much worse.
"We dodged a cannon," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said.
Cullen said: "It was an onslaught [of penalties]. Khabi was exceptional. We were one goal down, but that was a huge success."
Khabibulin faced 32 shots while improving to 15-2-2 lifetime against the Flames, the team he beat in 2004 to lead Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup championship. In his last five games, Khabibulin's goals-against average is 1.97 with a .932 save percentage.
Yawney likely will come back with Khabibulin against Edmonton, riding a hot goaltender in what is a crucial stretch of games for the Hawks to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Bell's first goal, on the Hawks' only power play of the night, tied the game 2-2, and 1:24 later Matthew Barnaby, off a feed from Matt Ellison, put Chicago ahead.
Bell's second score capped a three-goal period and was perhaps the Hawks prettiest of the season. Kyle Calder, playing one of his best games, found Rene Bourque, who sent a touch-pass to Bell for a nifty tic-tac-toe play.
That unit, put together four games ago, has energized Bell, with five goals in his last four games.
"I wish it would go like that for 82 games," Bell said. "We're keeping it simple and making the plays."