Carolina coach Peter Laviolette did his best to correct the problem during the first intermission.
"That's what Coach does," Matt Cullen said of Laviolette's fiery speech in the locker room. "We weren't playing as well as we could and he let us know about it."
Aaron Ward was awarded the tying goal after a video review early in the second period and Cullen put the Hurricanes ahead about a minute later, helping them beat the Blackhawks 5-3 Tuesday night.
Cullen scored again in the third period and Craig Adams also had two goals for the Hurricanes, who were playing at home for the first time since Nov. 27. They went 3-2-1 on the journey to hold onto the top spot in the Southeast Division and returned for five straight at the RBC Center -- their longest homestand.
"I think everybody knew that coming back from a road trip, it was going to be pulling teeth at times to get going," Laviolette said. "My job is to hold them accountable for a certain standard of play that they're capable of playing. And we didn't play that way in the first period."
The Blackhawks hadn't lost in regulation in seven games, including a run of four in a row decided in overtime, and had a two-game winning streak snapped. Jaroslav Spacek and Tyler Arnason gave Chicago a 2-0 in the opening 11 1/2 minutes.
Adams cut the deficit in half with his first goal before Ward tied it with a disputed one. Justin Williams skated in and had his shot blocked up in the air, but Ward knocked it in off goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with a swing of his stick. Originally, referee Dean Warren called a high-sticking violation and wiped away the score.
The replay officials reversed it after a brief delay, giving Ward his second goal of the season to make it 2-2.
"When it was in the air, I waited for it to come down," he said. "I knew I had made a concerted effort to hit it low enough, so I thought it was good."
Cullen needed only 64 seconds to add another, patiently holding the puck behind the net before a centering pass bounced into the net off the skate of Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.
"That goal from behind the net kind of changed the game," Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "They gained momentum off of that and we couldn't regain it. We butchered a lot of offensive chances, a lot of 3-on-2s in that first period where we didn't really get a shot on net."
The Hurricanes kept applying the pressure and finished with a 36-20 advantage in shots to win at home for the second time in five games. The three losses came during their only stretch of bad play this season, but they continued the best start in franchise history, with 40 points in 30 games.
"They're a very fast team," Khabibulin said. "They like turnovers, and if we're going to do that, it's going to be hard to play against them, because every line on that team is very fast."
Andy Hilbert brought the Blackhawks within 5-3 with his first goal of the season. He was called up from Norfolk of the American Hockey League earlier this month.
Before the game, the Hurricanes reassigned F Mike Zigomanis to Lowell of the AHL. He had one goal in 19 games this season but holds Lowell career records for games (254), goals (77), assists (114) and points (191). ... Chicago remained the only team in the NHL without a short-handed goal. ... Carolina C Eric Staal was held without a point for only the sixth time 30 games.