COLUMBUS, Ohio – Lasse Kukkonen scored a late clinching goal and four Chicago teammates had at least a goal and an assist to lead the Blackhawks past the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4.

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.

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 5-4.

It stayed that way 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.

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

Chicago improved to 6-1-3 under coach Denis Savard, hired Nov. 27 to replace the fired Trent Yawney.

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

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.

The Blue Jackets hadn’t given up more than two goals in a period all season. The five goals matched the most Columbus had ever surrendered in a period at home, dating back to early in the franchise’s second season early in the 2001-02 season.

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

In addition to Keith’s three assists, Hamilton, Havlat and Ruutu each had multipoint nights already with a goal and an assist apiece.

The Blue Jackets came right back to tighten things in the middle period.

Fedorov’s nifty assist set up Vyborny’s goal, after an odd-man rush before Modin scored on another power play midway through the second period. 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.

With Chicago struggling to hold the lead, Columbus nearly tied it midway through the third period when Fedorov rushed the net on the power play and passed to Modin, but he chipped the puck just wide.

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 on eight shots.

AP-ES-12-16-06 2148EST


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