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Associated Press
11/11/2006 12:00:20 AM


CHICAGO (AP) - Radim Vrbata helped the Chicago Blackhawks end a couple of droughts on Friday night.

Vrbata scored two power-play goals in the first period and Chicago stopped an eight-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.

His first goal also snapped the Blackhawks' six-game, 0-for-25 power-play slump.

"It was a big relief in the dressing room," Vrbata said. "We were really ready to get a win.

"It's not like we won the Stanley Cup," he added. "It's just one game. We got ourselves into a hole and we've got to get out of it. This is just one step."

Sebastien Caron stopped 24 shots in his debut in goal for Chicago. The Blackhawks signed him as a free agent on Aug. 8.

"I haven't played a lot this season, just three games at Norfolk (of the AHL)," Caron said. "The guys played terrific. They got to the pucks and took away the rebounds."

Chicago's Bryan Smolinksi fired a power-play goal into an empty net with 13 seconds left in the third period.

Injury-decimated Chicago hadn't won since defeating Montreal at home on Oct. 18, going 0-7-1 during the slide. Three of the Blackhawks' top players - forwards Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus, and top goalie Nikolai Khabibulin - are out.

On Friday night, the Blackhawks compensated by playing tight defence and scoring three or more goals for the first time since Oct. 21, a span of seven games.

"That's the way we're going to have to play to be successful," Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. "We we're responsible defensively, didn't panic and did our thing, and really kept it to the outside. They didn't get a whole lot on the inside."

Lee Stempniak scored for the Blues, who dropped their third straight and are 1-5-1 in their last seven.

"We can't be losing consecutive games like that," Stempniak said. "Right now, we're just not getting it done."

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