After their annual circus road trip started well and ended poorly, the Chicago Blackhawks returned home from their long 3-2-1 road trip to find themselves down by a goal late in the third period to the Anaheim Ducks, one of the top four teams in the Western conference.
Since fellow goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin went down with an injury, big money free agent signee Cristobal Huet was winless and brandishing a mediocre goals against average. After shutting out the Ducks in the first period and making two breathtaking stops that aroused the United Center crowd in the second, Huet found himself the recipient of harsh booing in the final period as most of the 21,574 at the UC verbally expressed their disgust. This time however, Huet showed why he commanded the big bucks and raised his game up while his teammates came together on offense.
Jonathan Toews, with a game leading two points, scored the game winner assisted by (just added to the first line) Dustin Byfuglien and prominent rookie Kris Versteeg with about a minute and a half left restoring the roar of the UC crowd. This point was accentuated later when fans erupted for Dave Bolllandâ€™s empty netter making the final result 4-2. â€œIn the first we came out strong and then in the second we struggled a little bit, but we battled hard and in the end it paid off,â€ Huet said.
It was more than just your garden variety comeback for the Blackhawks; this victory was especially emotional. At this first home game following a long road trip, the team had two pre-game ceremonies; each offered a polarity of feeling to the die-hard Hawks fan. The team honored two-time All Star and 1983 Rookie of the Year Steve Larmer, who is also the third leading goal scorer in franchise history. This joyous tribute was followed immediately by a sorrowful homage to Pit Martin, the former Hawks forward who passed away this week. Martin played 11 years with the team and is 7th on the franchise list in career points.
Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville talked about the magnitude of defeating Anaheim for both his goaltender Cristobal Huet and the team at large. â€œTheyâ€™re a good team, 7-1-1 their record in the last nine road games is pretty impressive, so we should move forward from this one and be excited about next game. A big team win, a big win for Huet and Iâ€™m sure it will help his confidence as well. Huet deserves a W and Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll feel better going forward too,â€ Quenneville said.Follow paulmbanks