Blackhawks honor Esposito with ceremony, shutout of Capitals

SportsSoccerJames WisniewskiRene BourquePatrick SharpPatrick KaneNational Hockey League

The Blackhawks honored Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito before the game and Nikolai Khabibulin honored him between the pipes during it.

Khabibulin stopped 25 shots to record his second shutout of the season and 38th of his career Wednesday night as the Hawks exploded for four first-period goals en route to a 5-0 victory before a crowd of 20,942 at the United Center.

The victory improved the Hawks' overall record to 35-32-7 as they won for the second time in the last seven games. For those still holding out hope for a playoff run, the Hawks moved within seven points of the eighth and final Western Conference spot with eight games to play.

"When we have a ceremony like this, it's always nice to win and even better because it was Tony. Even better it was a shutout," said Khabibulin, who ran his shutout streak to eight periods. "Guys in front of me did a really good job when [Alex] Ovechkin was on the ice. Usually he gets five, six, seven shots a game. I think he only had two."

Khabibulin preserved the shutout with the save of the season, stopping Alexander Semin's attempt at an open net with a full-out dive and snaring the puck with his glove with 2 minutes 53 seconds remaining.

"Stuff like that happens once in a while," Khabibulin said of the save. "You don't really practice that. I got a little bit lucky on that. I'll take it."

Said Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook: "It was awesome. He's such a great goaltender and he has been strong for us all year."

Jason Williams started the Hawks' onslaught when he batted a James Wisniewski shot out of midair and past Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig 1:27 into the game.

The Hawks took a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later when Jonathan Toews stuffed a shot past Kolzig from in front of the Washington goal while on the power play, and then Yanic Perreault fired a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle over Kolzig's shoulder later in the period.

Patrick Sharp increased his team-leading goal-scoring total to 35 with 2:06 remaining in the first to make it 4-0. Rene Bourque's goal on a breakaway midway through the second period capped the scoring.

Ovechkin entered the game leading the NHL in goals with 58, scoring with 102 points and shots on goal with 399. The Hawks shut him down in 17:53 of ice time.

"It was a good start to the night with the ceremony and then we had a good start for our team as well with three quick goals," said the Hawks' Patrick Kane, who had an assist for his 63rd point of the season, two more than Washington's Nicklas Backstrom in the race for the league's rookie scoring crown. "When you get goals like that, you're going to get some confidence and the other team is going to get down and frustrated. [And] anytime you can shut out Ovechkin, you're going to have a good chance to win."

One-timersKhabibulin started for the first time since Feb. 20 after being sidelined with a back injury. … The sellout was the Hawks' ninth of the season, which is more than the previous five seasons combined. … Perreault played for the first time since Feb. 10 after suffering a wrist injury and then being a healthy scratch.

ckuc@tribune.com

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