Nikolai Khabibulin’s attempt to have a better outing off a tough one in Tampa didn’t pan out. But his Chicago Blackhawks teammates weren’t letting him take the brunt of the blame.
Khabibulin had another bad night, allowing four goals on 22 shots before he was pulled for Corey Crawford, as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Ottawa Senators 6-5 at the United Center. The 40-year-old goaltender got off to a solid start on Tuesday. But by the second period, it started going wrong. He allowed three goals in a little more than four minutes, including a bad Mika Zibanejad goal that gave the Senators a 4-2 lead. That was it for him, as Corey Crawford came in to relieve and win.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Khabibulin “has to be better than that.”
“I can’t really say why (Khabibulin had a bad night). It’s just one of those nights,” Quenneville said. “We’ll try to look at it and get better.”
When asked what the next step could be, Quenneville wouldn’t get specific other than to say, “we’ll visit with it."
Every goaltender has been pulled at some point in his career. Crawford had some of those nights, especially two seasons ago, and he was backing up his backup following Tuesday’s game.
“This is a team game. We don’t place the blame on anyone individually,” he said. “That stuff happens. There were some tough bounces and some tough plays. But we all know what he can do. He’ll play some good games for us and win some good ones for us this year.”
Jonathan Toews agreed.
“We just knew we didn’t play well enough in the first half. Corey coming in made us realize we have to be better in front of our goaltender, and putting it on Khabby is unfair,” he said. “We gave up too many high-quality scoring chances and you saw what happened. We got better and better as the game went along.”
Crawford was tremendous in relief, stopping 14 of 15 shots, some of high quality.
“To come into that situation was remarkable,” Quenneville said. “A couple of shifts after (he came in) they had some quality chances. Give him credit for keeping and solidifying our hopes.”