Pulling out all the stops

Tribune reporter

On a night when the Blackhawks honored two defensemen from their past, two goaltenders in the present grabbed the spotlight.

Boston's Tim Thomas and Nikolai Khabibulin of the Blackhawks staged a duel between the pipes Wednesday night at the United Center after the evening began with the Hawks raising the No. 3 to the rafters to honor legendary defensemen Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote.

When the smoke cleared, Thomas and the Bruins came out on top with a 2-1 shootout victory before a crowd of 22,092 to snap the Hawks' four-game winning streak.

Thomas made 31 saves to drop the Hawks' record at home to 6-0-3 and 7-3-4 overall. With the shootout loss, the Hawks picked up a point for the fifth straight game and for the 11th time in their last 12 games. Khabibulin was stellar, making 38 saves, but saw his record drop to 4-1-3.

"I felt pretty good out there," Khabibulin said. "I played pretty well and the guys worked hard. That's all you can ask. It's frustrating, but at the same time what are you going to do? Just get ready for the next game."

Khabibulin and Thomas traded big saves throughout the game, but the biggest were Khabibulin's glove save to rob Marc Savard midway through overtime and Thomas stopping Patrick Sharp on a penalty shot seconds later.

"It was an exciting game," Thomas said. "Both teams had a lot of chances. The momentum was shifting back and forth because of all the penalties. Chicago is a very fast-skating team that challenges you."

Patrick Kane beat Thomas in the shootout but the netminder stopped Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland, while Blake Wheeler and P.J. Axelsson scored against Khabibulin.

The teams traded power-play goals in regulation, with Marco Sturm scoring in the final minute of the second period and Toews tying it with 10 minutes 50 seconds remaining in the third.

Toews' goal was his second in two games after not scoring in the first 12 games of the season. The captain redirected a pass from Kane from the right faceoff circle past Thomas.

"Our penalty killing was pretty effective," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the unit that stopped Boston 6 of 7 times. "Khabby had a special night as well. Boston checks well and plays strong, but we also did a lot well [Wednesday night]. We have to be willing to play tight and tough games."

The Hawks also finished 1 of 7 with a man advantage, thanks mostly to Thomas, who owns the league's best goals-against average and save percentage.

"Both teams played extremely well and it was a very exciting game for the fans," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Both goalies excelled. We just came out a step ahead."

The Hawks fell to 1-4 in shootouts, including 0-for-3 at the United Center.

"I guess I'm going to have to work on the shootout in practice a little bit more," Khabibulin said.

The game was the Hawks' third of five straight at home and they continue the stretch Friday night when they play host the St. Louis Blues.


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