It hasn't happened as often as the Blackhawks thought it would, but Thursday night was one of those games for which they signed goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
Facing truly an avalanche of rubber in the first 20 minutes, Khabibulin kept the Hawks in the game until they could find their bearings.
"It feels good to help the team win," Khabibulin said. "We didn't start well [Thursday night], but I thought after the first period we played very well. It was probably one of our better games."
Thursday was Khabibulin's first game since injuring his groin Dec. 28 against St. Louis. It was his first victory since defeating the Blues on Dec. 16, snapping a personal five-game losing streak.
The Hawks got off to a strong start, taking the lead 17 seconds into the game. Tyler Arnason picked the pocket of Colorado defenseman Brett Clark at the Avalanche blue line. Arnason's shot was stopped by David Aebischer, but Kyle Calder followed it up for the first of his two goals.
After that opening flurry, however, the Hawks were under duress for the rest of the periodbeing outshot 20-1 in the last 19:43. If there were any questions regarding Khabibulin being fit to return, they were answered. The 20 Colorado shots in the first period were the most the Hawks have allowed in a period this season.
"Historically, that's what Khabibulin is known for," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said. "After that the team played much better the final 40 minutes."
The Avalanche finally solved Khabibulin at 6:14 of the first when standout rookie Marek Svatos followed his own shot for his 28th goal of the season to tie it 1-1.
An Arnason penalty late in the first period, however, created an opportunity for Mikhail Yakubov. Yawney had Arnason on the bench for most of the last two periods after taking what Yawney described as a "needless penalty." After playing 3:25 in the first period, Arnason played just 4:38 in the final two.
Yakubov moved into the vacant center spot with wingers Radim Vrbata and Calder. That line clicked instantly, with Yakubov recording his first two-point NHL game with a goal and an assist.
Calder had his second two-goal game of the season and Vrbata added three assists.
"They're great players," Calder said of Yakubov and Vrbata. "This is a big chance for Yakubov, and he has to run with it as far as he can."
Khabibulin made a season-high 37 saves.
Boston claimed goalie Craig Anderson off waivers Thursday.
Patrick Sharp and Michael Holmqvist were scratched with the flu.
The victory was the first for the Hawks against a team with better than a .500 record since defeating the New York Rangers on Dec. 7.
Blackhawks 4, Avalanche 2