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Sopel scores goals, and virtually plays goalie

CHICAGO (AP) -- Vancouver defenseman Brent Sopel helped the
Canucks on both ends of the ice.

Sopel scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play with 6:42
left and made two outstanding defensive plays to lead the
Vancouver Canucks to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on
Friday night.

With the score tied 2-2, Sopel back-handed the puck into the net
from a sharp angle after Mattias Ohlund's shot from the top of the
slot sailed wide and caromed of the backboards.

''They kind of got caught and there was an opportunity for me to
slide down on the play for a rebound and the puck came off the back
boards,'' Sopel said. ''I was happy we could have a lead down the
stretch because we haven't played well the last few games.''

Chicago goalie Jocelyn Thibault lost sight of the puck for a
moment.

''I tried to look back and forth and I couldn't find the puck,''
Thibault said.

Early in the second period, Sopel made two saves on Chicago
shots while Vancouver goalie Dan Cloutier was caught out of the
net. Sopel made a stick save -- on the goal line -- on Theo Fleury's
shot at 2:30.

Seconds later, he blocked Kyle Calder's rebound with his
midsection.

''Tonight, it was good to contribute in both ends,'' said Sopel,
a minus-14 in his previous eight games. ''Obviously, this helps my
confidence. It was killing me. Every time I turned around it seemed
like the puck was going in the net.''

Murray Baron, Artem Chubarov and Markus Naslund also scored for
the Canucks, who handed the Blackhawks their first regulation defeat since Dec. 15.

With the victory, Marc Crawford surpassed Harry Neale and became the
winningest coach in franchise history with 143 victories.

''It's nice to be able to say I have the record,'' Crawford
said. ''But it was just important to have a win tonight. We got
contributions from a lot of other guys tonight. That's what we
needed.''

Eric Daze and Sergei Berezin scored for Chicago, which had
earned points in 14 consecutive games (7-0-4-3).

''It's too bad because we played hard and allowed a power-play
goal at the end,'' Thibault said. ''It cost us the game.''

Baron added an empty-net goal with 52 seconds left to complete
the scoring.

Vancouver's Dan Cloutier made 21 saves, while Thibault blocked
23 shots.

Daze opened the scoring with a power-play deflection 10:17 into
the first. He redirected Phil Housley's low shot from the point
past Cloutier from 15 feet out in the crease.

Chubarov tied it at 1 with 47 seconds left in the first by
converting a rebound of Trevor Letowski's shot from right wing.
Thibault made a pad save on Letowski, but the puck deflected to
Chubarov, who fired into an open net from the slot.

Naslund put Vancouver ahead 25 seconds into the third. He
wristed a high shot past Thibault's glove side from the edge of the
left circle after taking a cross-ice pass from Todd Bertuzzi.

Berezin, however, tied it at 2-2 just 1:25 later. After he took
a lead pass from Housley, Berezin slipped behind the Canucks
defense and beat Cloutier with a low shot between the pads.

Game notes
Chicago's leading scorer, center Alex Zhamnov, missed the game
with a left hand injury and is day to day. He has a goal and 10
assists in his last seven games. ... Blackhawks defenseman Jon Klemm
returned after missing 12 games with a broken left index finger and
left wrist injury. ... Vancouver improved to 14-6-2 on the road.
... Canucks defenseman Ed Jovanovksi missed his ninth game because of a heel
injury.