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Blackhawks 5, Flames 2

If it's not the Wings, it's a win for Hawks

Return to UC helps erase 2-game skid

By Chris Kuc

Tribune staff reporter

8:45 PM PST, January 4, 2009

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While Wrigley Field was nice, the Blackhawks see the United Center as their real Friendly Confines.

The Hawks returned to their true home rink for the first time in three games and returned to their winning ways with a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night.

The win snapped the Hawks' two-game skid, with one loss in Detroit and another to the Red Wings in Thursday's Winter Classic at the Cubs' ballpark.

The Hawks improved their home record to 12-2-4. And with their 11th victory in the last 14 games, they raised their season mark to 21-8-7.

Martin Havlat, Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp each had a goal and an assist, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien scored and Duncan Keith added two assists.

"Everyone in this room was disappointed with our last two games, so we wanted to come out and redeem ourselves," said Ladd, who beat Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from between the circles to provide a 2-1 lead in the second period.

"It wasn't our best, but we got the job done. We were doing a good job of getting pucks to the net and getting pucks behind their defense."

Havlat got the Hawks on the board 3 minutes 26 seconds into the game after taking a pass from Keith and scoring from the bottom of the right circle.

After Todd Bertuzzi tied it 1-1 in the second, Ladd scored. Just over a minute later, Versteeg got an unassisted short-handed goal to make it 3-1. Byfuglien added to the lead with a power-play goal with just over a second remaining in the period.

"It's really tough any time you let up a short-handed goal," said Versteeg, who picked up the puck after the Flames' Dion Phaneuf couldn't corral it, skated in on Kiprusoff and slid it between the goalie's pads.

"It was a fortunate bounce. It kind of hopped over Phaneuf's stick, and I really tried to hop on it and I guess I got lucky when I shot it.

"I'd like to tell you that when [Kiprusoff] moved his stick I slid it five-hole, but it didn't happen like that. I just tried to put it on net and see what happened."

Daymond Langkow's goal early in the third period cut the Hawks' lead to 4-2, but goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin held strong. Khabibulin made 34 saves to run his record to 12-2-4 on the season and 21-5-2 lifetime against Calgary.

"Chicago is a very good and fast team," Flames winger Jarome Iginla said. "Khabibulin made a number of good saves, especially in the third period when we came back and almost got within one goal."

The victory came in front of a crowd of 22,146 at the United Center, the Hawks' 18th sellout in as many home games. They now embark on a three-game trip beginning Tuesday night in Phoenix.

"It was an important game back in our building [before] going out on the road," Keith said. "We wanted to get a good feeling in the room. It's just like coming back home after being away for a while. It's not hard to get up for games when the fans are in it like this."

ckuc@tribune.com