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Hawks credit crowd after wild shootout victory
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Carolina Hurricanes' goalie Cam Ward watches as the shot by the Chicago Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg flies by for the game-winning goal during the shootout Wednesday.


Associated Press

Carolina Hurricanes' goalie Cam Ward makes the save as Hurricanes' Patrick Eaves and Chicago Blackhawks' Adam Burish look for the rebound during the second period Wednesday.


Associated Press

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Published: 3/11/2009 10:44 PM | Updated: 3/11/2009 11:57 PM

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If some of the Blackhawks' young players didn't know what playoff hockey is all about, they got a taste Wednesday night.

It took four rounds of a shootout, but the Hawks gutted out a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes behind huge efforts from Kris Versteeg and goaltender Cristobal Huet.

Versteeg scored a goal in regulation, then accounted for the winning goal in the shootout.

After Versteeg scored on a slick wrist shot under the crossbar, Huet needed to stop Sergei Samsonov for the win and came through with the save that sent the crowd of 21,513 into a frenzy.

"That was pretty energetic out there, and all the fans were energetic," Versteeg said. "That's how we thrive and that's how we play hard.

"Playing in front of the best fans in the world, you've got to give them something every night and if you don't you feel like you let them down."

There were 5 goals in eight attempts in the shootout with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Versteeg scoring for the Hawks.

Huet, rock solid all night, stopped Matt Cullen and Samsonov after being scored on twice.

"There were some great goals by both teams in the shootout," Brent Seabrook said. "We made one extra stop."

The Hawks played with emotion and were physical in rebounding from 2 losses last weekend, including a pathetic effort Sunday against Colorado on home ice.

"Just a little more energy, passion and effort goes a long way," Duncan Keith said. "That's what helped us come out on top."

The Hawks let a late lead get away and the game went to overtime. Trying to protect a 2-1 lead late, Toews took a hooking penalty with 1:03 to play in regulation.

Carolina pulled goalie Cam Ward for a 6-on-4 advantage and tied it with 27 seconds left on Tuomo Ruutu's shot from in the slot. The Hawks looked as if they might clear the zone before the goal, but Dave Bolland fell with the puck on his stick.

A wild overtime saw Kane hit the crossbar then get stoned in alone by Ward with 49 seconds left.

Huet had to make a huge save of his own with two seconds left after Eric Staal broke in alone on the left side.

After Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour got the only goal of the first period, the Hawks missed on three great scoring chances - two by Kane and one by Troy Brouwer - before Versteeg finally tied it with his 18th goal at 17:08 of the second period.

Brouwer redeemed himself by scoring the go-ahead goal on a power play at 4:51 of the third period.

It was the Hawks' first shootout since Dec. 6 in Detroit. They had been just 2-5 before Wednesday. Toews' goal made him 5-for-7 in shootouts this season.

"We haven't been in a shootout in a long time, but our go-to guys demonstrated their skill and helped us earn 2 points," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The game was tight, but I thought we did a lot of things we were hoping to do, like cut off the neutral zone."