After making big plays at both ends of the ice in the third period Sunday night, the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith said his role in the game-winning goal was the bigger thrill.
The defenseman's pretty passing play with Martin Havlat midway through the final period resulted in Havlat scoring the deciding goal in the Hawks' 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in front of 21,379 at the United Center.
Keith and Havlat twice exchanged passes before Havlat rifled a shot from the left circle past Columbus goaltender Steve Mason to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
Then Keith used his defensive skills to prevent Rick Nash from tying the game slightly more than two minutes later. Nash, who leads the Blue Jackets with 13 goals, attempted a wraparound shot that appeared to be heading past goaltender Cristobal Huet, but Keith reached to get a stick on it to deflect it away and preserve the Hawks' lead.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the pass," Keith said of which effort pleased him more. "It's always a nice feeling when you're on the ice when we score and the fans are cheering.
"At the same time, I like playing defense and the challenge of playing against those guys. Nash is a great player, and to be able to stop him feels good."
The Hawks were sluggish for much of the first and second periods, missing on passes and creating few scoring chances.
The Blue Jackets grabbed a 1-0 lead after one on a Fredrik Modin goal just 1 minute 35 seconds into the game.
Columbus controlled most of the second as well, but Patrick Sharp tied it with less than a second remaining in the period. With the Hawks on the power play, Sharp bounced a puck off Mason from behind the net for his team-leading 17th goal.
With the momentum going their way, the Hawks played a strong third and cashed in on Havlat's eighth of the season.
"Not all the games are pretty, and this was one of them [that wasn't]," Havlat said. "We were battling hard to the last second, and Huet held us in the game the whole night."
Havlat added that in the later stages "we were doing exactly what we had been told in the dressing room. We kept it until the end of the game, and that's why we won."
Huet was solid. He made 31 saves to earn his third consecutive victory and improve to 7-5-3.
"It was pretty ugly, but we still worked," Huet said. "Things weren't going our way, but we got a nice play from Martin and Duncan to get us the win. We had no openings for the first 35 minutes, and then finally we played a little bit in their zone."
Brent Seabrook iced the game for the Hawks with an empty-net goal with 22 seconds left.
BLACKHAWKS 3, BLUE JACKETS 1
Huet makes 31 saves in Hawks' 4th straight win
Keith gets kick out of assist on winner, stick save on Nash
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