Ottawa Senators\' Jarkko Ruutu, right, of Finland, and Chicago Blackhawks\' Dustin Byfuglien battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008, in Chicago. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Nam Y. Huh
CHICAGO - Cristobal Huet found himself watching more than playing early in the season because the Chicago Blackhawks' other goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, was performing so well.
With Khabibulin banged up and unable to go the last six games, Huet stepped in. And Wednesday night, he stepped up.
Huet stopped 23 saves to get his first shutout for Chicago as the Blackhawks beat the Ottawa Senators 2-0.
"He had a spectacular night, some significant, high-quality saves and a couple of them on the penalty kill," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
It was Huet's first NHL shutout since March 29, 2008, against Florida when he was with Washington and the 18th of his career. He signed a US$22.5-million, four-year deal with Chicago as a free agent during the off-season.
Chicago put Khabibulin on waivers in September, but when no deal could be made to move him, he stuck with the Blackhawks and played so well he became the starter.
Now with Khabibulin out, Huet has responded.
"You can tell he's definitely getting more confident and it's good to see get a shutout," said Chicago's Patrick Kane, who scored the game's first goal but also was whistled for three high-sticking penalties, the final one a double minor.
But the Blackhawks' penalty-killing unit was able to keep the Senators from scoring.
"We've got a four-minute power play and a 5-on-3 and we've got to come up with something," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. "We're standing still. We've got to move, the puck's got to move."
But Huet made sure that even when the Senators did have a good shot, they couldn't convert.
"Nothing special," he said. "I was able to see the puck and it was just being there at the right time, I guess. ... You feel good about yourself and you feel good when it is a tight game like that."
Kane scored a power-play goal on a deflected wrist shot from the right circle, 5:17 into the game, against backup goalie Martin Gerber, who also played well after the early score. Chicago got its second goal on an empty-netter from Troy Brouwer with 40 seconds left.
"Too bad for Martin. He was very sharp," Hartsburg said. "Huet made some big saves."
The Senators, 4-1-3 in their previous eight games, entered tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest goals in the NHL. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for 64 seconds in the opening period, but managed only one shot and finished the game 0-for-6 on the power play.
Huet's stop of a point-blank attempt by Dany Heatley highlighted another penalty-kill by the Blackhawks in the second period. And then minutes later, with Chicago on a power play, he made a body save on a short-handed breakaway attempt by Mike Fisher.
"It was a tough loss. We've got to be better than that," Fisher said.
The Senators got off four shots in a third-period power play, but Huet was there to protect the shutout and the lead.
Notes: Chicago's Kris Versteeg, tied for the NHL rookie-scoring lead with 22 points, served a one-game suspension for fighting Phoenix's Kyle Turris following a scrum with just over a second left Sunday night. ... Khabibulin, who has a lower-body injury, dressed. He could return Friday night when Chicago plays at Colorado. ... Senators C Dean McAmmond missed his sixth game due to pneumonia. ... Gerber, who had a leg muscle injury early in the season, got the start after top goalie Alex Auld had been in net for 11 straight games. ... The Blackhawks had their 14th straight home sellout, two more than all of last season.