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Toews’ hat trick gives Blackhawks 6-5 comeback win

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Updated: October 29, 2013 11:17PM



As Nikolai Khabibulin slowly trudged his way through the loneliest 100 feet in hockey, pulled midway through the second period Tuesday night, Duncan Keith reached out his stick and lightly rapped him on his right pad. Then Patrick Sharp lunged and tapped him on the butt, and Brent Seabrook got him on the side — small gestures of consolation after a second straight alarming performance by the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender.

Jonathan Toews went bigger.

Toews got Khabibulin off the hook — scoring three straight goals to turn a two-goal deficit into an eventual 6-5 Hawks victory over the Ottawa Senators.

“Jonny had a special game,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “If you’re a fan and you watch him play tonight you’re going to go, ‘Wow.’ That was a special performance.”

Toews scored on a wrap-around after a Sharp shot flipped over the net late in the second to cut the deficit to 4-3. He crashed the net on a Johnny Oduya pass 80 seconds into the third to tie it at 4-4. He then backhanded in a Seabrook shot, giving the Hawks the lead and giving himself a bunch of new hats, at 9:13 of the third. It was his fourth career hat trick (including one in the playoffs), and first since Nov. 17, 2010.

“It’s been a while, so it felt pretty good,” Toews said. “It’s an exciting thing.”

Andrew Shaw made it 6-4 with 5:50 left — a much-needed insurance goal, it turned out, as Zack Smith scored less than a minute later.

Toews wasn’t the only hero. Shaw had two goals, Marian Hossa had a goal and two assists, Sharp had two assists, and Corey Crawford came off the bench — less than 24 hours removed from his 5-1 win in Minnesota on Monday night — in rather spectacular fashion, allowing just one goal on 15 shots and making a couple of terrific stops on Jason Spezza and Cory Conacher.

When Crawford came in for Khabibulin, the Hawks were down 4-2. He wasn’t worried.

“This team’s never out of a game,” he said. “The amount of firepower we have — we created so much. That third period was unbelievable.”

While his teammates wound up bailing him out, Khabibulin’s shaky play was troubling. He was pulled after giving up two goals in less than a minute, three goals in seven shots in the second period, four goals in 22 shots total, and 10 goals in 47 shots over his last two appearances.

Quenneville said Khabibulin’s performance in a 6-5 overtime loss at Tampa Bay last Thursday was “not good enough.” This one wasn’t any better, and raises concerns that the 40-year-old veteran might not be able to provide Crawford with the kind of support that Ray Emery did last season. Backup goalies might not see the ice during the playoffs, but a strong No. 2 allows the top guy to stay fresh and rested, while not squandering too many points in the race for playoff seeding.

Finnish goalie Antti Raanta is faring well in Rockford as he adjusts to the North American rink, but Quenneville deflected questions about Khabibulin and how he’d proceed. The Hawks have three days off in a row before playing back-to-back games on Saturday in Winnipeg and Sunday at home against Calgary.

“Gotta be better than that,” was all Quenneville said about Khabibulin’s effort, instead focusing on how well his team responded.

And aside from Khabibulin there was plenty to like. The new top line of Sharp, Toews and Hossa combined for four goals and five assists, while the defense — despite yielding five goals — activated the offense and sparked several odd-man rushes. In fact, the Hawks felt they could have scored a few more times if not for a performance by Park Ridge’s Craig Anderson that Crawford said was way better than the final score suggested.

After going eight games without scoring more than three goals, the Hawks have scored at least five in three of their last four. Of course, the hope is that going forward, they won’t need that many, especially when Crawford is due a night off.

“We felt like we were in the game all the time, even when they were up 4-2,” Hossa said. “We stuck with it, we had a plan to just keep going at them, and we found a way to win, which is important.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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