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Smolinski, Hawks hand Habs first loss in regulation

CHICAGO (AP) -- Two of Chicago's key offseason acquisitions came
through Wednesday night.

Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski scored to help the Blackhawks
beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. Havlat and Smolinski were acquired
from the Ottawa Senators in a three-team deal in July.

Smolinski put Chicago in front 2-1 just 2 minutes into the
third, scoring from the slot after taking Tony Salmelainen's
centering pass from behind the net. Jeff Hamilton set up the play
by forcing Montreal's Janne Niinimaa to turn over the puck.

"It was a great game and they're a good team that had their
chances," Smolinski said. "It doesn't matter who scores, it's
still two points."

Havlat, recorded his seventh goal and NHL-leading 13th point for
Chicago (4-2-0), but was held to one point in a game for the first
time this season. He's tied for the league goal-scoring lead with
Buffalo's Chris Drury and New York Ranger Brendan Shanahan.

"I think every win gives you more confidence," Havlat said.
"We were very happy to get the second goal. Tony Salmelainen
made a great play and 'Smoke' was in the right place at the right
time.

"Then we controlled the game defensively, which was pretty
good."

After Smolinski scored, the Blackhawks held on and handed the
Canadiens (3-1-2) their first regulation loss. Nikolai Khabibulin
had 28 stops for Chicago.

Chris Higgins, the Canadiens' leading scorer, recorded his
fourth goal and David Aebischer made 21 saves for Montreal.

The Blackhawks survived the final 1:58 of the third playing
short-handed. Aebischer was on the bench for a sixth attacker for
the final 57 seconds.

"I think at the end we had a couple of good chances to tie the
game," Aebischer said. "I mean it's 2-1 and we had a power play
there.

"I had to make a couple of good stops to keep it close and give
us a chance to tie the game."

Havlat put the Blackhawks in front just 49 seconds in. Carrying
the puck down the right wing, he skirted past the Montreal defense
and cut toward the net. Havlat then slid an off-speed backhand shot
between Aebischer's legs.

"I was trying to get it on the forehand and it slipped,"
Havlat said.

Higgins tied it with 2:04 left in the first, just 2 seconds
after a Montreal power play expired. After Khabibulin stopped
Higgins' first shot from the left circle, he fired in the rebound
from a sharp angle.

"I think we had more quality chances than they did," Higgins
said. "But we didn't bury our chances early."

The Canadiens outshot the Blackhawks 9-4 in a scoreless second
and forced Khabibulin to make several close-in saves.

Game notes
Higgins has points in five of Montreal's first six games.
... The Canadiens, who defeated Calgary 5-4 in Montreal on Tuesday,
didn't hold a game-day skate Wednesday morning. ... Montreal D
Mathieu Dandenault missed the game with a thigh injury. Canadiens F
Aaron Downey sat out with a concussion. Both are out indefinitely.
... Chicago forwards Denis Arkhipov and Reed Low were healthy
scratches.