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Blackhawks 4, Senators 3 (OT): Patrick Kane, Cam Ward star in Ottawa

OTTAWA — As the Blackhawks’ mistakes mounted in their zone and the Senators’ shots and scoring chances increased Thursday at Canadian Ice Centre, the importance of veteran goalie Cam Ward became more and more obvious.

The Hawks need Ward to be more than a fill-in for injured starter Corey Crawford.

He might need to be Crawford-like if the Hawks are going to survive in the early going this season and win some games.

Without Ward, the Hawks don’t rally to beat the Senators 4-3 in overtime on winger Patrick Kane’s breakaway winner.

Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward turns away a shot against the Senators. | Jana Chytilova/Getty Images

Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward turns away a shot against the Senators. | Jana Chytilova/Getty Images

“He just didn’t quit tonight,” Kane said. “Giving up three in the first, and none were really his fault, but still they’re going in the net. So for him to bounce back and shut the door the last two periods, it gives us a lot of confidence in him, and I’m sure he’s feeling pretty good about it, too.”

The Hawks signed Ward, 34, in free agency to do exactly what he did against Ottawa. He gave the Hawks a chance to win. Without Ward, defenseman Brent Seabrook doesn’t get a chance to be the clutch player that he has proved to be for the Hawks.

Seabrook netted the equalizer on a pass from Kane at the 12:18 mark in the third period.

“After the first intermission, we were able to settle down,” said Ward, who stopped 22 of 25 shots for his first victory as a Hawk.

“I think the team also got better as the game went along. We talked about being a resilient bunch.”

Ward embodied that resilience.

The Hawks allowed three goals in the first period, including a power-play goal by center Colin White, but their defensive issues were more to blame than Ward.

Some of the Hawks’ early woes were reminiscent of last season. Defenseman Maxime Lajoie’s first-period goal was an example.

Senators center Matt Duchene set him up in front of Ward with a centering pass under Seabrook’s stick. Center Nick Schmaltz also was slow to turn Lajoie’s shot.

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But Ward stood out throughout the night, whether it was turning away multiple rushes, stopping forwards Mikkel Boedker and Bobby Ryan during Ottawa power plays in the second period or making a save on winger Ryan Dzingel on a breakaway.

“I just needed to calm down,” Ward said. “I felt good, but I felt like I was moving around too much, and then in the second and third, I just felt a lot more composed and made the big save when we needed it. That’s my job.”

Winger Alex DeBrincat (unassisted) and captain Jonathan Toews provided the Hawks with short-lived leads in the first period.

White’s power-play goal at 16:32 in the first period gave the Senators their first lead. Winger Zack Smith also scored for Ottawa in the first.

All in all, it was a winning effort. And it started with Ward.

“He was solid tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “As the game got deeper and he had a breakaway [to stop], he had some big saves. And I think it was fun for the guys, getting that type of a performance at big times in the game.

‘‘It was good for him to get a win in his first game, as well.”