SUN Hockey Pool

Blackhawks end Flames' win streak at eight

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

The Chicago Blackhawks dug their own grave but the Calgary Flames were unable to throw on the dirt.

The home side had ample opportunity to beat the 'Hawks but fell short in a 5-2 loss before 19,289 at the Saddledome last night.

The loss snapped the Flames' winning streak at eight games.

Had Calgary capitalized on the Blackhawks' constant parade to the penalty box during the opening period, they may have put the visitors in a hole too deep to dig their way out.

Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and Lady Luck, however, had different ideas.

Khabibulin made a handful of great stops while his team was shorthanded for more than 16 minutes in the first, as Calgary enjoyed nine straight powerplays.

"When you have nine powerplays in the first period and (they're) only down one, that's probably a boost," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who found it difficult to fault a special-teams unit that potted a pair to give the team a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

"We had a good start to the game. We drew those penalties from hard work and skating and those things. When we didn't get more, maybe we lulled a bit and they got a boost. They were good. They played a very solid road game and capitalized on our mistakes."

Flames rearguard Andrew Ference hit a post during one of three straight five-on-three chances.

He wonders whether one more goal would have taken the fight out of the 'Hawks.

"That could have been a big boost for us to really take control of the game," said Ference, who gave full marks to Khabibulin for keeping the score down early.

"You can't say, 'What if?' We had a lot of opportunities beyond just hitting one post.

"Khabibulin made a lot of good saves tonight. He was probably the best player out there."

Mark Bell and Matthew Barnaby, who potted the winning goal, scored 96 seconds apart midway through the second period to give the Blackhawks their first lead of the game.

They never looked back.

Bell added a second to rub salt in the wound late in the third.

The Flames did take advantage of an early powerplay to jump out in front of the Blackhawks on Roman Hamrlik's first powerplay goal of the season. Darren McCarty set up Hamrlik in the high slot with a pass from beside the net, which the Flames defenceman one-timed past Khabibulin.

Mark Cullen had a two-goal night, scoring the Blackhawks' first and fifth markers.

Chuck Kobasew tallied his ninth of the season -- and fifth in the last six games -- by beating a 'Hawks defender to a soft dump-in from the blueline and slipping the puck past Khabibulin to give the Flames a 2-1 lead 30 seconds before the first intermission.

Kiprusoff, who had won his previous seven starts, was pulled after the second period in favour of backup Philippe Sauve. Kiprusoff finished with 14 saves, Sauve allowed a goal on seven shots in the third.

Khabibulin made 23 saves for the win.

Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter said his team showed the effects of playing nine games in 18 days but also gave full marks to Khabibulin.

"The best player on the ice tonight ... the reason Chicago has played so well lately is how Khabibulin has been playing," said Sutter.

"He was really, really good tonight."

- - -

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: 5

CALGARY FLAMES: 2


Videos

Photos