Considering the terrible defeat at Minnesota on Wednesday night, and the fact the Blackhawks were back at it Thursday, rookie goaltender Michael Leighton figured he would be a spectator when the Hawks played host to the Calgary Flames.
Instead, Leighton made amends with a 29-save performance as the Hawks rebounded with a 3-1 victory before an announced crowd of 10,865 at the United Center.
"I was surprised," Leighton said when he learned he was going to start. On Wednesday in Minnesota, Leighton gave up six goals on 18 shots in a 7-4 loss.
"It shows [Hawks coach Brian Sutter] has confidence in me," Leighton said. "I let my team down the last game. I didn't want to do that again."
Sutter said he never thought about playing Steve Passmore instead of Leighton, although he did say Thursday was an important game for the 22-year-old.
"Very important," Sutter said. "We had two games [with Leighton in goal] in which we outplayed the opponent and lost."
Leighton had to be sharp early. The Flames were attempting to tie a franchise-record with their seventh straight road victory.
In the first two games of this trip, they won easily in New York against the Rangers and Islanders, and they outshot the Hawks 13-7 in the opening period Thursday.
"He made some big stops," Hawks defenseman Bryan Berard said. "That says a lot about the kid."
After Calgary took the lead on Oleg Saprykin's power-play goal, in which Robyn Regehr's point shot deflected off his skate, the Hawks responded with goals from Kyle Calder, Steve Sullivan and an empty-netter from Berard.
For Calder, it was his first goal in 15 games, dating to Dec. 7 against Phoenix. Sullivan's game-winner came 2 minutes 34 seconds into the third period on the power play.
Not only has the Hawks' power play cost them points this season, it also may have cost them a player Thursday.
While on the power play early in the second period, Alex Zhamnov and Calder collided. Zhamnov only played a couple of shifts after that and wasn't on the bench for the third period.
Sutter said he didn't know what Zhamnov's injury was, but he said he didn't think it was his back. Thursday was only Zhamnov's fifth game back after having back surgery in October.
The Hawks didn't announce what or how serious the injury was. Sutter said it may have been Zhamnov's shoulder, but one player said Zhamnov wasn't feeling well after the collision and that he may have suffered a concussion.
Thursday marked the NHL debut of defenseman Anton Babchuk, called up from Norfolk because of injuries to Nathan Dempsey and Steve Poapst.
Babchuk, 19, saw just 11:06 of ice time, but he was able to get off his high-powered shot with two shots on goal.
"He's going to be a player," Berard said.
After blowing two-goal leads in each of the last two games, the Hawks were finally able to close the book on a team, and one of the hottest teams in the league at that.
"There was a lot character by our guys to come back and do what we did tonight," Sutter said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun