Stopped twice on first-period breakaways, Kesler scored the winning goal on a wraparound five minutes into the second, lifting the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
After Richard Park shot wide of an empty net to Khabibulin's right, Kesler quickly corralled the puck behind the net and stuffed it in the other side before the goalie could get back.
"I actually thought Park scored and then I saw the puck laying there in my feet and everybody was on the other side of the net so I just wrapped it," said Kesler, whose goal came 68 seconds after Markus Naslund scored on the power play and ended a 10-game point drought.
"I've been struggling, so it was just good to get one in the second after missing a couple of breakaways," Kesler said.
The 21-year-old Kesler had a couple more chances after that, but was robbed again by Khabibulin in tight a few minutes later and shot wide of an empty net early in the third.
"I should have had at least three," he said.
Henrik Sedin added a goal with three minutes left as the Canucks won for the fourth time in five games and improved to 9-1 at home.
Mark Bell scored for the Blackhawks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. It was just the second loss in seven games for Chicago after opening the season by losing 10 of 14.
"We're moving in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do, a lot of improvement to do," said Khabibulin, who stopped 19 shots. "We're on the right path, and if we continue to improve we'll be a pretty good team soon.
Khabibulin -- who helped Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup in 2004 -- kept the Canucks off the scoreboard with several great stops.
That enabled Bell to give Chicago a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first period when he whistled a wrist shot over Alex Auld's glove after being left alone in the high slot.
Chicago came out flying in the second, pinning the Canucks in their end while recording the first five shots of the period. But the Blackhawks -- the NHL's most penalized team -- were undone by a tripping call against defenseman Jassen Cullimore 2:21 into the period.
Naslund converted a pretty backhand pass from Brendan Morrison on the ensuing power play, and Kesler gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead just over a minute later.
"I've been hard on myself because we need to get the third line going," Kesler said. "That's what turns a good team into a great team, when you get all four lines contributing and that happened tonight."
After combining with Anaheim for 33 minor penalties on Sunday, Vancouver was only whistled for one against the Blackhawks, who were short-handed four times.
"We weren't taking many penalties, they weren't taking many penalties and my legs got into it pretty fast," Kesler said.
Auld, starting after No. 1 goalie Dan Cloutier played all three games during a California road trip, made his best stop on Matthew Barnaby's breakaway while the Canucks were being outshot 14-7 in the second period.
He only needed to make six saves in the third before Sedin banged Anson Carter's failed wraparound attempt into an empty net.
"Only getting one penalty was huge," Auld said. "We've said discipline is important and it was tonight."
- Bell's goal was his sixth during a four-game goal streak. ... Naslund extended his point streak to seven games, giving him five goals and six assists during that stretch.
- The Canucks improved to 10-1 against teams outside the Northwest Division, but they are just 4-5-2 within their division.
- Chicago D Jim Vandermeer and RW Pavel Votrobiev both missed their second straight games with ankle injuries. ... Canucks C Nathan Smith played after being recalled from Manitoba of the AHL earlier in the day.