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BLACKHAWKS 3, HURRICANES 2 (SHOOTOUT)

Chicago Blackhawks stop skid with victory over Carolina Hurricanes

Hawks rebound in shootout after losing late lead

By Chris Kuc

Tribune reporter

March 12, 2009

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Mired in their worst slump of the season, the Blackhawks figured the best way to reverse their fortunes Wednesday night was to keep things simple.

Bypassing attempts at highlight-reel plays that seemed to work so well for much of the season, the Hawks instead relied on a tight-checking, defensive style to beat Carolina 3-2 in a shootout.

After yielding 10 goals in their last two games—both losses—the strategy worked—barely—before a crowd of 21,513 at the United Center. The victory snapped the Hawks' two-game skid and gave them their third triumph in their last eight games.

Kris Versteeg had a goal in regulation and scored the game-winner in the shootout, and Cristobal Huet stopped former Hawk Sergei Samsonov in the shootout to earn the victory in net as the Hawks snapped the Hurricanes' four-game winning streak.

The victory came despite playing without star winger Martin Havlat, who missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury suffered Sunday night against Colorado. It was the Hawks' first triumph over the Hurricanes since April 3, 1999.

"That was pretty energetic," said Versteeg, who scored his 18th of the season late in the second period to tie the score 1-1. "We really tried to chip pucks and keep pucks in deep to play to our advantages. Keeping things simple and playing hard every game is what we really want to do."

Veteran Rod Brind'Amour put Carolina the board first, but Versteeg tied it when he and teammate Dave Bolland broke in two-on-one with Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg back as Versteeg fired a shot from the left circle to beat goalie Cam Ward.

Tory Brouwer's 10th goal of the season early in the third gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead. With the Hawks on a power play because of a high-sticking penalty to ex-Hawk Tuomo Ruutu on Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane took the puck to the net and slid a pass to Brouwer that he tapped past Ward.

Ruutu evened the game 2-2 on a power-play goal with 27 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime and eventually the shootout.

Jonathan Toews and Kane scored in the shootout, the Hawks' first since they lost to the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 6. After Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen scored for Carolina, Versteeg beat Ward to the stick side and Huet stopped Samsonov to improve to 19-13-3 on the season.

"We came out with a lot better effort and it showed right from the get-go," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "They got the first one and we stuck with it and kept to our game plan. We deserved to win. We played a better team game. We limited them to a lot fewer scoring chances than our opponents have had the last few games."

The Hawks were playing the second of four consecutive home games and host Columbus on Friday night.

"Both teams played hard and played well," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got ourselves back in the game even though we were behind. It was very intense, the game was tight and that's what we're going to see until the end."

ckuc@tribune.com