CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' stars stepped up when they were needed the most.
Led by the third regular-season hat trick of Jonathan Toews' career plus a strong relief outing by goalie Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks overcame a two-goal deficit and stunned the Ottawa Senators 6-5 Tuesday night at United Center.
Also instrumental in overcoming a 4-2 deficit were Andrew Shaw, who scored twice, and Toews' linemates, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Sharp finished with a pair of assists and Hossa scored his 100th goal as a Blackhawk to go with two assists in a game that saw 77 combined shots and numerous odd-man rushes for both sides.
But it was Toews, the captain, who led the way when his team needed him.
"Johnny had a special game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Toews, who recorded a natural hat trick by scoring three straight times between the second and third periods, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. "If you're a fan and you watched him play tonight, you're going to go, 'Wow.' It was a special performance and that line had a great night, as well. They had high-quality chances and they had the puck. They were dangerous off the rush, but that was one of those performances as a fan you get to see [and] you'll remember it."
Chicago also received a dazzling performance by Crawford, who made 14 saves to earn the win after relieving Nikolai Khabibulin 11:14 into the second period. Khabibulin's bad spell continued; he has allowed 10 goals on the last 47 shots he's faced in his last two starts, including a 6-5 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.
"This is a team game, so we're not placing the blame on anybody individually," Crawford said. "That stuff happens, some tough bounces and some tough plays for him. But we all know what he can do. He's going to play some big games for us and win some big games for us this year."
This was not one of those games for the 40-year old Russian goalie, who returned to Chicago as a free agent last summer to be Ray Emery's replacement behind Crawford. After allowing a late first-period goal to Milan Michalek that tied it 1-1, Khabibulin was beaten three times in the second to prompt his exit.
Mika Zibanejad's goal, scored after a pretty move to glide into the slot, was the final straw. Quenneville made the switch to Crawford and the crowd responded with a standing ovation. Toews, who added an assist for a four-point night, responded by scoring three straight goals.
His first came late in the middle period on a beautiful wraparound. He got the others in the third period by charging the net to put the Blackhawks up 5-4 with 10:47 left.
"I think there's a lot of games this season, whatever our [line] was, we were always creating something and [there were] some frustrating nights where it just didn't go in," Toews said. "Guys were getting great chances and pucks didn't go in for us and we got nothing to show for it. So, it's nice as a line that we could get a few tonight."
Shaw made it 6-4 at 14:10 with his second of the game; it turned out to be the deciding goal whenZack Smith scored 13 seconds later for Ottawa (4-6-2).Michalek,Kyle Turris,Joe Corvo and Zibanejad had the other goals for the Senators, who've dropped three games in a row.
Craig Anderson , a native of nearby Park Ridge, Ill., took the loss in front of family and friends.
"We got five goals on the road against the Stanley Cup champions," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "I thought we controlled a lot of play early in the game, but once we got the game to 4-2 and they changed the goalie, they seemed to get lots of momentum and we didn't handle, obviously, the change in momentum very well."
Chicago, which swept its second back-to-back set of 18 on the schedule, improved to 7-0-2 against Eastern Conference teams and 4-0-2 against teams from the Atlantic Division. The Blackhawks have 19 points and are within a point of the first-place Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division.
One troublesome area is the number of goals they've allowed of late. Opponents in three of the last four games have scored at least five goals, but Quenneville didn't put the onus on the defense. Without saying it out loud, he fingered the goaltending as the main issue.
Khabibulin started two of those three high-scoring affairs.
"I think our numbers always, our chance numbers all year long have been the exact number that we've been pleased with at the end of the night," Quenneville said. "[This was] kind of comparable to the Tampa game, where a lot of pucks were going in tonight on both ends and we were fortunate to be on the right side tonight."
As for the backup goaltending situation, Quenneville is not pleased with Khabibulin's performance thus far. The Blackhawks don't play again until Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg and won't practice again until Thursday, giving the coaches a whole day to break down the film.
"Gotta be better than that," Quenneville said. "You can't really say [why it happened]. It was just one of those nights and we'll look at it and try to get better. We've got a few days off here. Let's get back to the day off [Wednesday] and revisit with it."
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