Nikolai Khabibulin was happy to win Sunday, no question about that. But, boy, just once he would like to have an easy game.
"Every time we jump to a big lead, we can't seem to stick with it and get an easy game," the goaltender said after the Blackhawks held on for a 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Hawks seemed to be in control, taking a 5-2 lead 3 minutes 14 seconds into the third period on a goal by Peter Bondra.
But after turning the puck over and being pinned in their own zone, the Hawks saw their lead shrink when Alexander Svitov scored at 9:18 of the third. It became full-fledged white-knuckle time when David Vyborny pulled the Blue Jackets within 5-4 at 16:02.
"It's not like this is the first time [it has happened], especially against Columbus," Khabibulin said.
In fact, the Blue Jackets had come back from two-goal deficits twice to beat the Hawks this season, and they nearly did it a third time in a 6-4 Hawks victory in December.
"It's not the first time we struggled at the end to get two points," Khabibulin said. "We're happy with the win, but we have to realize that it wasn't pretty."
But for a team that will miss the playoffs and is still five games under .500, a win is a win, no matter how pretty or ugly.
"It's a young team, and we made a few mistakes, but the good thing about this is we can fix them," coach Denis Savard said. "If we don't make those mistakes, we can't fix them."
The Hawks headed home for a couple of days after spending nearly two weeks on the road and winning four of six games. The stretch was better than just about anyone could have expectedexcept for the perpetually optimistic Savard.
"I believe in our guys," Savard said. "It could have been 5-1 with a bounce here or there."
All season Columbus has been the perfect tonic for an anemic Hawks offense. The Hawks have scored 21 goals in six games against Columbus this season, an average of 3.5 per game, compared to their overall average of 2.49.
The Hawks also received balanced scoring. Martin Havlat continued to be red-hot and is on the best scoring streak of his career. He had a goal and two assists and has had goals in six straight games.
Patrick Sharp also scored his first goal since Jan. 16, Martin Lapointe his first since Jan. 2, Bryan Smolinski his first since Jan. 16 and Bondra his first since Jan. 7.
The win moved the Hawks past Columbus and out of the Central Division basement. ... Defenseman Jassen Cullimore and winger Tony Salmelainen were scratched.
Sharp was back in the lineup after missing the last two games in western Canada. He took a big hit from Calgary's David Moss and said he didn't remember leaving the ice. He had headaches the next day in Vancouver and didn't skate or play until Sunday.
Havlat was a plus-3 and, despite missing 22 games, is in the top 20 in the league at plus-22. He is on pace for 38 goals and 78 points if he plays in the rest of the games. The 38 goals would be the most since Eric Daze scored 38in 82 gamesin 2001-02, and the 78 points would be the most since Tony Amonte's 84 in 1999-2000.
The most games Havlat can play this season is 60.
Bondra, playing on a line with Havlat and Smolinski, was a plus-2 and had his second multi-point game of the season with a goal and assist.
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