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Ruutu's lone goal not enough for Hawks

SportsFootballNikolai KhabibulinNational Hockey LeagueSoccerBrent SeabrookMarkus Naslund

As far as the Blackhawks are concerned, Vancouver is the place promising road trips go to die.

Last season on this trip, the Hawks won their first two games only to come here and lose. That precedced two more defeats and a sour taste on what could have been a season-changing stretch.

The Hawks came into Sunday's game against the Canucks with three points in their first two games but fell 2-1. If history repeats and the Hawks don't rebound Wednesday and Friday in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively, their postseason chances will grow even dimmer.

"We have to keep that in mind and play the game we can," Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Despite again being badly outplayed for much of the game, the Hawks had a wonderful chance to come away with at least a point.

They spent the final minute of the game on the power play and had goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin pulled for a sixth skater, yet they couldn't find the equalizer.

"That's an offensive situation we didn't take advantage of," coach Trent Yawney said.

The difference was special teams. The Hawks failed on all five power-play attempts, while Vancouver went 1-for-5 and scored the eventual game-winning goal with an extra attacker during a delayed penalty.

Vancouver took the lead on Markus Naslund's power-play goal 2 minutes 46 seconds into the game.

Tuomo Ruutu tied it with his second goal in as many nights at 10:41 of the first. The eventual winner came on a rebound by Josh Green, his first goal of the season, at 6:47 of the second period.

The Hawks had just 23 shots and managed just six in the third period despite having two power plays.

Even though he lost, Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was named the game's No. 1 star with a 37-save performance.

But once again, offense was elusive, even with Tony Salmelainen and Jeff Hamilton seeing more ice time.

"I put Salmelainen back with Ruutu and [Radim] Vrbata," Yawney said, aware of the criticism he has heared for cutting their ice time. "You try everything. They're supposed to be offensive players, so I'm putting them out on the ice. Hopefully everybody is happy they got their ice time."

Salmelainen had one second-period shot, and Hamilton had one in the third.

The Hawks were without Vrbata for the last five minutes. He took a stick to the face from Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa off a faceoff. He was back on the bench in the final minute but didn't return to the game.

One-timers

Rookie center Michael Blunden was scratched for the second straight game. He had gone three games without getting a shot. "I just felt that his play dropped off a little bit," Yawney said. "He played well initially, but it's a process with these young players. He's not ready right now to be an everyday NHL player. That's not to say he won't be ready in a month or two months." Blunden is still looking for his first NHL point after nine games. ... Ruutu isn't concerned by Salmelainen's slow start. "Sometimes you go through hard times, but he's going to come back," Ruutu said of his Finnish countryman. "I'm not worried about it." ... Sunday was a big sports day in Vancouver. The B.C. Lions, who play right across the street from the Canucks home at GM Place, beat Montreal 25-14 to win the Grey Cup, Canada's version of the Super Bowl.

rfoltman@tribune.com

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