Khabibulin's drought is over

Tribune staff reporter

Few teams in the NHL can lift a goaltender's confidence as much as the Columbus Blue Jackets, the lowest-scoring team in the league.

Of course, the team right above Columbus in offensive futility is the Blackhawks. So when the teams met Wednesday night at the United Center, it was a chance for a feel-good night for the goalies.

No one can use a pick-me-up as much as Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who had been chased in his last two outings against Detroit.

He picked up his first victory since Jan. 19 as the Hawks beat the Blue Jackets 3-2.

"It feels better to win and play well," Khabibulin said. "I'm happy with this performance, and now I'm looking forward."

Kyle Calder's 15th goal of the season 9 minutes 55 seconds into the third period was the game-winner.

The Hawks built a 2-0 lead with goals by Mark Bell and Mark Cullen within 26 seconds midway through the first period. Bell's goal was his 21st of the season, matching a career high, while Cullen scored his fifth in just 12 games as a Hawk.

Jody Shelley scored his second goal against the Hawks—he has only three all season—to put the Blue Jackets on the board, and Rick Nash tied the game at 7:40 of the third.

But Khabibulin was strong all night, making 33 saves, and his glove hand was particularly good. He robbed Dan Fritsche with the glove on a penalty shot in the second period, the seventh penalty shot against the Hawks this season.

"In the morning skate [my glove] wasn't very good, and I was concerned," he said. "Once the game started, it was better."

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