SUN Hockey Pool

Alarm bells ring too late

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

CHICAGO -- The scene after the first period was telling.

Calgary Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener was angry, frustrated and directing much of that emotion towards one of the men in stripes, bellowing 'wake up' at the official while skating to the bench after the buzzer.

He should have yelled those words at his teammates, who were napping through what ended up a 4-3 OT win for the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center yesterday.

They were only down 1-0 at the time of Warrener's outburst but there were no signs of life from the visitors.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, had lost 10 straight games and were eager to snap their skid. They came out strong on the first shift only to be denied by Miikka Kiprusoff, who stoned Martin Havlat's wraparound attempt with a diving stick save. The Flames didn't get going for almost 30 minutes.

"With our record the way it is, it doesn't matter what the other team does we should be ready to go," said Warrener. "We were flat and sitting around and watching."

They watched as blueliner James Wisniewski finally put the Blackhawks on the board by rifling a high slapshot from inside the faceoff circle over Kiprusoff's glove hand, making the water bottles dance atop the net.

They watched again as Jeffrey Hamilton avoided Andrei Zyuzin's attempted stick check on Kiprusoff's doorstep to give the 'Hawks a 2-0 lead in the middle frame.

In fact, the Flames looked like they were sleepwalking until Tuomo Ruutu's goaltender interference penalty led to an offensive burst.

Daymond Langkow tucked a pass from Alex Tanguay behind Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin to notch his fifth straight 20-goal season.

Not thirty seconds later, the game was evened when Kristian Huselius pounced on a loose puck after Tanguay's pass ricocheted off a skate in front of the net and the Swede threaded the needle over Khabibulin and a couple of defencemen stacked in the crease for his 21st of the year.

The Flames took the lead on Tanguay's breakaway goal late in the third period and appeared on their way to an unlikely comeback win on the road but a pair of responses by Denis Arkhipov -- one with 44 seconds remaining in regulation and another on a controversial powerplay in overtime -- gave the Blackhawks a win they wanted desperately.

Chicago head coach Denis Savard was emotional afterward having seen his squad end their skid.

"There's a bunch of great guys in that room," he said before pausing to keep his emotions in check. "And I'm proud of them. It felt good. It felt real good."

That the league's worst powerplay unit got the job done made Savard's day.

"Thank God," Savard said.

The Flames had a chance to salvage their brutal start with a clutch finish and failed to do so, which had some of them lamenting the missed opportunity.

"We never should have been in overtime in the first place," said Langkow. "You battle back like we did, it would have been a good win for us."

He, too, was at a loss to explain the bad start.

"We can't make excuses. It's an (early) game, a little different routine, that's probably why I'm guessing we came out so flat," he said.

"But you know they're going to be ready."

The Blackhawks were definitely ready to turn around their recent misfortune and acting captain Martin Lapointe hopes this is what they've been looking for.

"I totally believe we're seeing the light here," said Lapointe, who was asked why the result went in their favour when so many games have gone the other way.

"Percentages," Lapointe said. "You keep working hard, keep believing. Hopefully we keep that up and the good-luck snowball will keep on rolling for us."

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GAME OVER

BLACKHAWKS 4 FLAMES 3 (OT)

SUN THREE STARS

1. Denis Arkhipov, Blackhawks -- Tied it up with less than a minute in regulation then won it in overtime.

2. Alex Tanguay, Flames -- Two assists and what looked to be the game-winning goal late in the third period.

3. Tuomo Ruutu, Blackhawks -- A thorn in Miikka Kiprusoff's side physically as well as on the scoresheet.

UNSUNG HERO

Martin Havlat didn't record any offensive stats but it wasn't for lack of effort. He was buzzing through Flames defenders from the opening faceoff and set the pace for his 'Hawks.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

A soft penalty call in overtime was the final stake but the Flames didn't show much heart. A lacklustre first half saw them trailing 2-0 to a much more inspired Blackhawks team determined to break its 10-game losing skid.

BURNING QUESTION

Did the Flames enjoy all that the city of Chicago has to offer a little too much on a Saturday night off?

WHAT IT MEANS

Well, two of a possible four points on this two-game road trip isn't all bad but two wins over beatable teams would have been more to the Flames liking. Their road record now stands at 7-12-6.

NOTABLE

RW Peter Bondra returned to the 'Hawks lineup after missing four games with a sore neck and shoulder.

UP NEXT

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames, tomorrow, Saddledome, 7 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960


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