Blackhawks halt long drought vs. Hurricanes

CHICAGO (Ticker) — Rookie Kris Versteeg scored the decisive
goal in the fourth round of the shootout as the Chicago
Blackhawks ended a long winless drought against the Carolina
Hurricanes with a 3-2 triumph on Wednesday.

Versteeg and Troy Brouwer tallied in regulation and Cristobal
Huet made 29 saves for the Blackhawks, who topped the Hurricanes
for the first time since April 3, 1999. Chicago went 0-6-1 with
one tie in its previous eight meetings with Carolina.

“Both teams played hard and played well,” Blackhawks coach Joel
Quenneville said. “It was an intense game, so I’m pleased with
how we fought our way back in it.”

Captain Rod Brind’Amour and Tuomo Ruutu netted goals for the
Hurricanes, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Both players extended their goal-scoring streaks to three

“We didn’t play very well, but a point is better than nothing,”
Brind’Amour said. “We won’t win many games playing like this,
so we were lucky to get a point out of it.”

The Blackhawks, who have not lost three straight in regulation
this season, were just 27 seconds away from denying the
Hurricanes of a point. But with goaltender Cam Ward pulled for
an extra attacker during a late power play, Ruutu received a
pass from below the left faceoff circle by Ray Whitney and beat
Huet from the slot to forge a 2-2 tie.

“When you have a man advantage and you also pull the goalie, you
just get the puck on the net,” Ruutu said. “We got it to go

Both netminders came up huge in overtime, as Ward stopped 2008
Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane on a breakaway with 43 seconds
remaining and Huet duplicated the feat against Eric Staal with
four seconds to go.

Neither goalie was able to stop the puck over the first two
rounds of the shootout. Captain Jonathan Toews and Kane scored
for Chicago, while Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen tallied for Carolina.

Dave Bolland put a backhander off the left goalpost on the
Blackhawks’ third attempt, and Huet denied Matt Cullen’s shot in
the third round. But Versteeg beat Ward high to the glove side
on Chicago’s next try, and Huet got his glove on former
Blackhawk Sergei Samsonov’s shot to seal the win.

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“I just went down there and shot it,” Versteeg said. “I didn’t
try to think too much. If you overhandle the puck on bad ice,
it can get away or you can fumble it, so I kept it simple and it
worked out.”

“I just came out at the end, and I was fortunate that he missed
the net,” Huet said. “Their team is good in the shootout, but
our guys made some good shots.”

Making his 16th consecutive start, Ward turned aside 39 shots
for Carolina (36-27-6), which moved one point ahead of idle
Florida (34-24-9) for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

“Our goalie played great,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.
“But we spent too much time in the (penalty) box. They had more
energy. Nothing was good or smooth tonight. It was an ugly
game for us.”

Brind’Amour opened the scoring at 5:24 of the first period,
converting a cross-slot pass from Samsonov while alone below the
right circle. But Versteeg beat Ward with a wrist shot from the
left circle during a 2-on-1 rush with 2:52 remaining in the
second to tie it at 1-1.

With the Blackhawks on the power play early in the third, Kane
grabbed a carom off the end boards behind the net and came out
near the right post before getting the puck to Brouwer, who
buried it from the left side at 4:51 for his 10th goal of the
season and a 2-1 advantage.

“We were down, but we’ve dug ourselves out of holes before,”
Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “So it was key to just
keep getting pucks at the net and keeping things simple.”