Blackhawks 3, Blue Jackets 2
Kyle Calder broke a tie with a third-period goal and Khabibulin made 33 saves—including stopping a second-period penalty shot—as Chicago snapped a three-game losing streak.
Khabibulin started despite being pulled in the Blackhawks’ two previous games, both losses to Detroit. He earned his first victory in four contests since coming back from a sprained left knee that sidelined him for 12 games.
Khabibulin, the highest paid player in Blackhawks’ history, was solid. He delivered the kind of performance that netted him a four-year, $27 million free-agent contract last summer.
“This was definitely the best I felt,” Khabibulin said. “In the two Red Wings games, they were playing so fast, not only skating but moving the puck real fast so it felt fast.
“This game was a little better. I had some long shots and you can get into the game a little bit easier.”
Calder turned Khabibulin’s effort into a victory when he snapped a 2-all tie at 9:55 of the third. He deked and beat Blue Jackets goalie Marc Denis from just inside the crease after taking a pass from Patrick Sharp, who was behind the net.
“I had their ‘D’ man beat going to the net and I was yelling for it all the way in,” Calder said. “Patrick made a great pass and it just bounced over (Adam) Foote’s stick. I got him (Denis) to commit one way, was able to come back and was able to score.”
“We knew he (Khabibulin) got pulled the last couple of games,” Nash said. “We knew we had to get pucks to the net quickly.
“He made saves when he needed them. He was good; he made some clutch saves.”
Goals 26 seconds apart midway through the first period staked Chicago to a 2-0 lead.
Bell opened the scoring at 8:46 when he drove up the slot and knocked in a rebound of Rene Bourque’s shot from the left wing.
Cullen made it 2-0 at 9:12 in the first. After picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone, he skated into the Columbus end and beat Denis with a high shot from the slot.
Dan Fritsche was awarded a penalty shot at 6:06 of the second after being pulled down from behind by Chicago’s Michal Barinka. Khabibulin snared Fritsche shot toward the upper right corner with his glove.
“I just came in and Khabibulin made a good save on me,” Fritsche said. “I didn’t get everything that I wanted on it. I tried to go under the bar.”
The Blue Jackets continued to pressure the Blackhawks and cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1 when Shelley scored at 7:52 of the second.
Nash’s power-play goal at 7:40 of the third tied it at 2. Planted at the edge of the crease, he swatted in Nikolai Zherdev’s centering pass.
Nash’s goal was his 20th. He has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his last 12 games. … Columbus C Jan Hrdina sat out the game with a broken toe. He’s day-to-day. C Mike Rupp missed third game with an irregular heartbeat. … Bell’s goal was his 21st, matching a career high set in 2003-04. … Cullen has two goals and an assist in four games since his recall from Norfolk of the AHL last week.