After trailing 5-1 after the first, Columbus pulls within 5-4, falls 6-4
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Columbus Rally Falls Short
After trailing 5-1 after the first, Columbus pulls within 5-4, falls 6-4

Sunday, 12.17.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Columbus Rally Falls Short
After trailing 5-1 after the first, Columbus pulls within 5-4, falls 6-4<\/span>

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -New coach, new approach for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Lasse Kukkonen scored a late clinching goal and four teammates had at least a goal and an assist to lead the Blackhawks past the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4 on Saturday night.

Martin Havlat had a goal and two assists and Denis Arkhipov, Jeffrey Hamilton and Tuomo Ruutu each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who almost lost first-period leads of 4-0 and 5-1.

The Blue Jackets closed to 5-4 before Kukkonen's goal re-energized the Blackhawks.

"We showed lots of character in the third to come back after being up 5-1," said coach Denis Savard, who improved his record to 6-1-3 since being hired Nov. 27 to replace the fired Trent Yawney. "We want to be a team that pressures. We got away from pressuring. We turned the puck over too many times. They got back into it with their good players."

Duncan Keith had the first three-point night of his career with three assists - all in the opening period. Bryan Smolinski added a goal.

The Blue Jackets were booed off the ice after the opening period but received a standing ovation after coming back with three goals in the second period to cut the lead to a goal.

"It's tough to fight back," Columbus forward Fredrik Modin said. "We weren't happy with our start, but we managed to snap out of it in the second period."

It stayed 5-4 until Kukkonen scored on a 2-on-1 pass from Havlat with 6:15 left - on one of Chicago's meager two shots in the period.

"We got a big lead after the first period and kind of stopped doing the little things," Havlat said. "In the end we got the two points. In the last 20 minutes, it was important that we get back on track, like we were playing in the first period."

Rick Nash, David Vyborny, Modin and Alexander Svitov had the Columbus goals, with Vyborny and Sergei Fedorov each adding two assists. Nash and Modin each contributed an assist.

Columbus failed to get a point for the first time in seven games.

"We came out a little flat and we can't be doing that," Nash said. "We need to come out with more energy."

Hamilton tapped in Jassen Cullimore's long shot to open the scoring. The Blackhawks followed with goals by Havlat, Arkhipov and Ruutu over a span of 4:42 to forge a 4-0 lead.

After Nash countered for the Blue Jackets, Smolinski picked up a loose puck at the blue line in the final minute of the opening period and beat Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena with a high shot to push the lead back to 5-1.

Ty Conklin came on to replace Norrena to start the second period.

In the second period, Fedorov's nifty assist set up Vyborny's goal after an odd-man rush before Modin scored on another power play. Nash skated with the puck through the slot and lost control of it, Modin jamming it off the near post with the puck ricocheting off Khabibulin's backside into the net.

Khabibulin, who finished with 32 saves, was peppered with shots before he gave up a rebound on Ron Hainsey's long drive and Svitov was there to clean up to cut the gap to 5-4.

But he was solid in the final period.

"At the beginning (of the season) it was very tough and we had a lot of injuries," Havlat said. "Right now under Savard we're playing more offensively and we pressure the puck much more."

Notes: Norrena gave up three goals on Chicago's first eight shots and faced just 16 in giving up all five in the third period. ... Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook played in his 100th career game. ... Conklin, making his first appearance for the Blue Jackets, gave up Kukkonen's goal while facing eight shots.

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