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Hurricanes 2, Blackhawks 0

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks no longer own the third period.

Their late-game heroics ran out Wednesday night, when the Carolina Hurricanes salted away a 2-0 victory with a solid final 20 minutes, outhitting the rugged Blackhawks and getting another super effort from goaltender Arturs Irbe.

``We go through this every week or so,'' said Chicago coach Dirk Graham, whose team had been 2-2-1 when trailing after two periods after going 0-27-1 last year. ``We continue to do the same thing, we react to other teams. We thought we could pull it out in the end and it's just not gonna happen.''

Carolina coach Paul Maurice said he and his club were aware of Chicago's late-game pushes and reacted accordingly.

``We talked about keeping our shifts short,'' Maurice said of his third-period strategy. ``Our third period was our best, and it's also when they are going to wind it up and are more physical.

``I remember playing this team last year and they opened it up in the third period and just pounded us right into the ice and we lost the game. Not the case this year.''

Sami Kapanen returned from a knee injury to score in his fourth straight game for Carolina, and Irbe got his 14th career shutout.

Irbe was signed in September by Carolina general manager and former NHL goalie Jim Rutherford to back up Trevor Kidd. But after Kidd's slow start, Irbe has been the key man in net for the Hurricanes.

``When we signed him, Jim Rutherford said to me, `Hey, this guy can play goal,''' said Maurice. ``He said right from day one that this guy is a big-league goaltender. He turned out to be exactly right.''

After a franchise-worst 1-7-2 start a season ago, the Hurricanes are 3-2-3 after eight games.

``We know we can go into a building now, on the road or at home, and be strong enough that we're not going to be pushed around,'' said Maurice.

Kapanen, who sat out Sunday's 3-2 home loss against Los Angeles with a bruised knee, scored the game-winner with 5:48 left in the second period on a perfect feed from Ron Francis, who had knocked Christian Laflamme off the puck behind Chicago goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick.

Francis scored an empty-net goal with 19.9 seconds left.

Irbe entered the game leading the NHL in goals-against average at 1.01 and faced 21 shots for his first shutout of the season.

``I was stuck on 13 (shutouts) for almost half a year so I had to make sure I got off of that,'' said Irbe, who has surrendered five goals in six games, improving his record to 3-0-2.

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