Nikolai Khabibulin owes Jonathan Toews.
Toews made Khabibulin's second straight shaky start an afterthought Tuesday night by putting the Blackhawks on his back and leading them to a come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators at the United Center.
Toews scored 3 straight goals after Khabibulin was pulled at 11:14 of the second period trailing 4-2.
"I think as a team we had a slow start," Toews said. "It's unfair to put the burden on the goaltender. We improved and got better and were a little more responsible as the game went on.
"The goals we gave up were point-blank chances. It's unfair to blame our goaltender. We have to improve, and I think we did as the game went on."
A wraparound goal by Toews at 14:30 of the second period brought the Hawks within 4-3.
After Corey Crawford ignited the crowd by stoning Jason Spezza in alone short-handed late in the second period, Toews brought the Hawks all the way back early in the third period when he redirected a pass from Johnny Oduya past Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
Toews gave the Hawks the lead 5-4 at 9:13 of the third period when he tapped a Brent Seabrook rebound by Anderson. It was the third career hat trick for the Hawks' captain. "Tonight was one of those nights where the puck just seemed to fall on my stick in the right spots," he said.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has seen Toews do a lot of special things, and Tuesday's performance was right up there.
"Jonny had a special game," Quenneville said. "If you're a fan and you watched him play tonight, you're going to go, 'Wow.' That was one of those performances that if you're a fan and you get to see, you're going to remember it."
Still, it took Andrew Shaw's second goal of the night to clinch the win as Ottawa got a late goal from Zack Smith.
Quenneville sounded a little concerned about the 40-year-old Khabibulin, who was trying to bounce back from last week's 6-5 overtime loss at Tampa Bay.
"Tough game," Quenneville said. "I just like how we responded. We hung in there."
As for Khabibulin specifically, Quenneville left the door open for anything to happen. "(Khabibulin) has got to be better than that," he said. "I don't know if it's confidence or what it is. We'll see. We'll look at it and try to get better."
The Hawks went 1-for-2 on the power play. Quenneville, in his pregame chat with reporters, was asked why the power play has been so good with 5 goals in the last five games.
"I think our power play is more successful when we shoot," he said. "I know that we've had some zone time and sometimes you don't cash in, but I think we're a threat to score and the quality of the ones that go in are all basically off of point shots.
"When you shoot the puck and get traffic and do your thing afterwards, the puck will find a way to go in."
Make it six straight games with a power-play goal as Shaw tallied in the first period. Again it started with a point shot, this one by Patrick Sharp that hit Shaw in front and found its way past Anderson.
But the Senators scored 4 of the next 5 goals to chase Khabibulin. Quenneville had seen enough after Khabibulin let a shot by Mike Zibanejad softly elude him.
Crawford wound up making 14 saves on 15 shots.
"This team is never out of a game with the amount of firepower we have," Crawford said. "We created so much in that third period, it was unbelievable."
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