Michael Holmqvist has spent the season on the fourth line and wouldn't come immediately to mind if the Blackhawks needed shootout candidates. Neither would defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.
But Spacek and Holmqvist were tapped by coach Trent Yawney on Sunday, and both responded as the Hawks beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-4 in a shootout.
The Hawks won the shootout 3-2, Holmqvist netting the winner and Spacek and Pavel Vorobiev also converting.
The victory extended the Hawks' streak with a point to five games and moved them to 12-14-2. They're within two games of .500, which is their goal after 30 games, when the schedule swings heavily in their favor.
Holmqvist's goal came in sudden death. Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, playing in his 500th NHL game, gave up goals to the first two Atlanta shooters but stopped the last three.
Trailing 2-1 in the shootout, the Hawks needed Spacek to score to extend the session. After taking a wide route to the goal, Spacek calmly beat Michael Garnett.
"I always do that," Spacek said. "I tried to hit someone on the [Atlanta] bench."
Spacek was joking, but in a physical and chippy game, no one would have doubted him.
Holmqvist said he knew exactly what move he was going to use on Garnett when he picked up the puck at center ice.
"I saw my opportunity," Holmqvist said. "[Shootouts] are good. They [stink] when they don't go in."
The Hawks are 2-1 in shootouts, Khabibulin winning both. Craig Anderson absorbed the loss.
It didn't look like a shootout would be needed after the first 12 minutes with the Hawks jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
Playing his first game since Nov. 27 and just his second in the last nine because of a sore ankle, Vorobiev sandwiched two goals around one by Spacek.
The Thrashers haven't been able to do much this season, but one thing they can do is score, led by the wondrously talented Ilya Kovalchuk.
Atlanta scored four straight goals to take a 4-3 lead, Kovalchuk netting two. On his second, which tied the game late in the second period, Kovalchuk batted the puck out of the air from the goal line and off the back of Khabibulin.
"The guys stuck with it," Yawney said. "Even when [Atlanta] scored to take the lead, we stayed composed."
The Thrashers took the lead on a goal by Slava Kozlov at 9 minutes 36 seconds of the third period, but the Hawks forced overtime on Duncan Keith's backhand goal three minutes later.
Andy Hilbert, being counted on to provide skill, was scratched Sunday. Hilbert has played three games without a point and has five shots. Also scratched was defenseman Anton Babchuk, whom the Hawks just called up. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin was back in the lineup. Todd Simpson and Shawn Thornton also dressed. Kovalchuk is more than a goal scorer. On his second goal, he forced a turnover with a big hit behind the Hawks' net and minutes later leveled Holmqvist with a crushing check. The last time the Hawks played in Atlanta, in 2003, there were 145 minutes of penalties, the Hawks collecting 73.
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