Around these parts they call their top stars "The Big Three," but Saturday night the Blackhawks had "A Bigger Three."
Jonathan Toews' overtime goal off a feed from Patrick Sharp and outstanding goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin lifted the Hawks to a 4-3 victory over the Senators before a crowd of 20,171 at Scotiabank Place. The victory was the Hawks' second straight and gave them a big boost in confidence by defeating the top team in the Eastern Conference on the road.
Ottawa stars Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson scored goals, handed out assists and made tape-to-tape passes aplenty, but the Hawks countered with Toews' goal and two assists, Sharp's two goals and assist and 26 saves from Khabibulin.
"This is a huge game for us," Sharp said. "We really showed up and played hard."
After Dean McAmmond gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead with a short-handed score at the 5-minute-48-second mark of the first period, the Hawks tied it 1:24 later when Martin Lapointe took a pass from Adam Burish and fired a slap shot past Senators goalie Ray Emery from the right circle.
Ottawa took a 2-1 lead at 10:43 as Heatley deflected a shot by Wade Redden. Heatley got his second of the game at 2:26 of the second by leading a Senators rush and scoring from in close.
The Hawks had a terrific chance to tie it when Sharp had a short-handed breakaway and was pulled down. He was awarded a penalty shot with 8:53 remaining in the second but fired the puck wide of the net.
The winger redeemed himself when he tied it 3-3 with the Hawks on the power play 38 seconds into the third. Sharp took a pass from Toews and sent a wrist shot from between the circles by Emery.
"We're getting back on track; we're confident," Toews said. "Maybe some people started thinking we were a flash in the pan, the way we played at the start of the year. We believe we're a contender and that we're going to be a tough team to beat down the road."
Toews scored the game-winner 2:07 into overtime.
"I got that feeling on the bench that all I needed was one chance and I would put one away," the rookie said. "It's nice to get an OT winner. Bottom line is we played well as a team and did what we had to do to win."
Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza combined for three points Saturday and tested Khabibulin throughout with outstanding scoring chances.
"I think they're the best line in hockey," Sharp said. "They're all shooters, [and] they are all passers so you aren't sure who to cover. We taught ourselves a lesson that we can play with any team."
Khabibulin is encouraged.
"We didn't give up, kept battling and kept working hard," he said. "When you beat a team like that, it should give us confidence as a team. That's the kind of effort that we should expect from ourselves every night."
One-timersMartin Havlat, making his first appearance in Ottawa since playing for the Senators from 2000-06, left the game in the second period with a groin injury. Havlat had three shots on goal in 8:10 of ice time before suffering the injury while helping kill a penalty. "We'll take it day by day, but I'm going to need some time, for sure," he said. … Forwards Sergei Samsonov, David Koci and Yanic Perreault were healthy scratches. … Sharp's penalty-shot attempt was the Hawks' first on the road since Alex Zhamnov scored in Philadelphia on Dec. 13, 2002.