- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) - Antoine Vermette scored two goals, and backup goalie Wade Dubielewicz made 27 saves to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to their fourth straight victory, 5-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

Kristian Huselius, Raffi Torres and Rick Nash also scored to help Columbus, fighting to make the playoffs for the first time, move into fifth place in the Western Conference _ a point ahead of Vancouver. The Canucks faced Los Angeles on Friday night.

Vermette has three goals and three assists in four games since joining the Blue Jackets in a March 4 trade with Ottawa.

Brent Seabrook, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane scored for Chicago, which has lost three of its last four and is 3-5-1 in its last nine.

Dubielewicz, making his first start since Feb. 6, earned his first NHL victory of the season. Rookie Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets’ top goalie, got the night off after 14 straight starts.

Chicago’s Cristobal Huet made 17 saves in his 12th start in Chicago’s last 14 games. He normally alternates with Nikolai Khabibulin, who hasn’t played since aggravating a groin injury Feb. 11.

Khabibulin, activated from injured reserve Wednesday, backed up Huet, and might start the Blackhawks’ next game, at home Sunday against the New York Islanders.

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets will play each other three more times in the regular season. The two teams could meet in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks, fourth in the Western Conference, appear headed to the postseason after missing it for five straight seasons and nine of the last 10.

The Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead in the first period by capitalizing on Chicago defensive coverage breakdowns.

Vermette opened the scoring just 45 seconds in. After Huet made saves on Jan Hejda and R.J. Umberger, Vermette popped in a loose rebound from just outside the crease.

Huselius made it 2-0 with his 20th goal midway through the period. He slipped in alone on right wing after taking a pass from Jakub Voracek, deked Huet to the ice and scored on a backhand shot.

The Blackhawks came back to tie it on goals by Seabrook and Versteeg 1:40 apart early in the second.

Seabrook cut it to 2-1 on a low, screened drive from the right point 1:42 into the second and 2 seconds after a Chicago power play elapsed. Versteeg tied it at 3:22 with a power-play deflection of Duncan Keith’s shot from the left point.

Vermette’s second goal, on a power play with 2:16 left in the second, restored Columbus’ lead at 3-2.

Fedor Tyutin’s shot from the left circle hit traffic in front of the goal and deflected to Vermette, who was alone at the right edge of the crease.

Torres made it 4-2 at 3:50 of the third by driving to the net and knocking in a rebound of Michael Peca’s shot from the right corner.

Kane’s power-play goal with 5:57 left in the third cut it to 4-3.

The Blackhawks pressured in the final 1:01 with a power play and with Huet on the bench for an extra attacker. Nash, however, scored short-handed into an empty net with 19 seconds remaining.

Notes:@ Chicago RW Martin Havlat returned after sitting out a game _ his first this season _ because of a bruised leg. Havlat has 12 goals and 19 assists in 30 games since Jan. 1. … Chicago RW Patrick Sharp has resumed skating. He has missed 12 games with a left knee injury. … Columbus D Marc Methot sat out his first game with a concussion. LW Fredrik Modin missed his fourth straight and 12th in 13 with a knee injury.

(This version CORRECTS Blue Jackets 5, Blackhawks 3. SUBS 16th graf to correct Huet’s saves to 17 sted 16.)

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