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Chicago Blackhawks take command 5-1

Calgary Flames down 3-2 in best-of-seven series

By Chris Kuc

Tribune reporter

April 26, 2009

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In a postseason series where scoring the first goal has led to disaster, the Blackhawks bucked the trend.

In fact, they discovered the perfect formula for overcoming it: Once they got ahead in Game 5 on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames, the Hawks stepped on the gas and just kept scoring. And scoring.

Five Hawks netted goals, including three scores in a two-minute span in the first period, and Nikolai Khabibulin rebounded from two consecutive losses in net to help propel the Hawks to a 5-1 victory.

The win gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series as they became the first team to score first and go on to win. They can advance to the conference semifinals with a victory in Game 6 on Monday night in Calgary.

"The team that scored the first goal in the series [hadn't] won but that didn't change the way we thought," said the Hawks' Brent Seabrook, who had a goal and two assists. "We wanted to have a good start and get on them early. It's big to get this game here at home."

For a while, it looked like the Flames were intent on being the team that didn't score first as they didn't attempt their first shot on goal until the 10-minute-26-second mark of the first. By that time the Hawks had eight shots, including one from Seabrook that had found the back of the net.

The defenseman started the scoring onslaught midway through the opening period when he took a feed from Martin Havlat from behind the net and fired a slap shot past Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff from between the circles.

The Hawks went ahead 2-0 just 1:30 later when Jonathan Toews poked the puck to Patrick Sharp in front of the Flames net and the winger stuffed it through Kiprusoff and into the goal.

The roar of the United Center crowd of 22,563 hadn't yet dissipated when rookie Kris Versteeg made it 3-0 just 18 seconds later. After a Seabrook shot that Kiprusoff stopped, Versteeg knocked a backhander in off the rebound and the rout was on.

Dustin Boyd's goal early in the second that brought the Flames to within 3-1 didn't deter the Hawks' offensive juggernaut as the home team tacked on two more in the second.

Andrew Ladd poked a loose puck into Kiprusoff's skates, and the veteran goalie kicked the puck into the net to help the Hawks to a 4-1 lead.

That was enough for Flames coach Mike Keenan as he yanked the veteran Kiprusoff. Cam Barker greeted Curtis McElhinney with a slap shot from the left circle that bounded past the goalie to give the Hawks a 5-1 advantage.

"We had a good start," said Khabibulin, who had 19 saves. "We were skating and jumping to the loose pucks. I think [the first] was one of our best periods of the year."

Havlat added two assists while Flames star Jarome Iginla had just one shot on goal and finished a minus-3.

"Scoring early and not letting them respond right after we scored [was key]," Barker said. "We did a good job of getting pucks deep and playing simple. It really paid off."

ckuc@tribune.com