Martin Havlat's second season opener went a lot better than his first.
Havlat, who injured his right shoulder in the first game of the season and missed the next 22, returned to the lineup in spectacular fashion Wednesday night by scoring two goals to lift the Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of 11,122 at the United Center.
"I was just getting ready to play good defensively, and whatever came offensively I'd take, but it ended up like this," said Havlat, who scored his first goal 43 seconds into the game. "It was nice to score right away and get the first one. It was a great night for everybody."
The winger's season was beginning anew after he got hurt in a scrum in front of the net in the Oct. 4 opener at Minnesota. He avoided a third surgery and instead underwent intense rehabilitation.
"I just wanted to come back and be helpful," Havlat said. "I knew at the beginning I wouldn't feel great. I need to get my legs back and get into game shape. I was just trying to chip in and help the team win."
Havlat gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead when he broke in two-on-one with Jason Williams and flipped a backhand shot into the top of the net past Lightning goaltender Johan Holmqvist in the first minute.
After Dustin Byfuglien scored at the 5-minute-31-second mark of the first, Havlat made it 3-0 just 12 seconds into the second period when he fired a one-timer off a faceoff win by Robert Lang.
"It's a boost for the whole team," said rookie Patrick Kane, who had three assists. "He's a great player, an elite player.
"You could sense something was going to happen right off the bat. He scored 43 seconds in. It's definitely nice to have him in the lineup."
Tampa Bay began the third period with Marc Denis in goal, but he didn't fare much better. At the 2:20 mark while on the power play, Kane drew two defenders and slipped a backhand pass to Patrick Sharp, who scored into the open goal. It was Sharp's team-leading 12th goal and put the Hawks in front 4-0.
After the Lightning got on the scoreboard when Nick Tarnasky scored his first goal of the season with 10:18 left, Jonathan Toews made it a 5-1 Hawks lead by tucking a rebound of a Kane shot past Denis 33 seconds later.
"We were really excited this week knowing [Havlat] was going to be back in the lineup," said Toews, whose goal was his ninth. "We were excited to be back here in front of our own fans with new guys in the lineup. I had a lot of energy, and I think especially [Kane], Sharp and myself, we just went out there and played and added to it."
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin benefited from the offensive outburst and took advantage to make 21 saves and record his ninth victory.
"Those guys are very explosive, [but] they didn't seem to have much jump," Khabibulin said of his former Lightning teammates. "But you can't really fall asleep with them because it doesn't take much for them to explode and score a few goals."
Khabibulin added some offense of his own by picking up assists on Sharp's and Toews' goals.
One-timersDefenseman James Wisniewski was scratched as he recovers from a slight concussion suffered when he was checked into the boards Sunday night in Vancouver. ... Gov. Rod Blagojevich attended the game and sat with new Hawks President John McDonough. ... Khabibulin is expected to play Friday night when the Hawks host Phoenix. Backup Patrick Lalime is scheduled to start Saturday night in St. Louis.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun