"We wanted to stay above .500," said Toews, the captain of the Blackhawks (8-7-1). "We need to get out of the hole we dug for ourselves. It's important to win every game. We don't want to take a step back."
The Thrashers have lost two straight overall and four of five at home.
Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who faced Chicago for the first time since being traded by the defending Stanley Cup champions, was stopped on the Thrashers' last shootout attempt when Marty Turco reached out and poked the puck away with his stick.
"We battled, we chased, we skated, we really looked like our team again," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. "We looked like we had speed and we put a lot of pressure on their defense."
Turco stopped 33 shots to win for the first time in three starts and improve to 7-4-1.
Toews' power-play goal 9:52 into the game made it 1-1. He then got the Blackhawks even at 3 when he stole the puck from Rich Peverley and scored on a breakaway 4:42 into the second.
That move came less than a minute after Quenneville called timeout. Part of Quenneville's quick talk on the bench was to remind his team of playing with more awareness.
Quenneville ended the Saturday morning skate abruptly when the pace and effort disappointed him.
"That motivation should be coming from within our locker room," Toews said. "We're mature, professional hockey players, and we should know when it's time to light that fire under each other. It was a wake-up call. The way we practice and prepare carries over into games."
Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP last season, stole the puck again 12 minutes later. This time he took it from goalie Ondrej Pavelec behind the net and kicked it to Kane for an easy tap-in that made it 4-4.
"It was a good response from the leadership, and it was nice to see them produce," Quenneville said. "At the same time, I thought [the leaders] were committed to the team and doing what they need to be successful."
The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead on Kane's fifth goal 16:03 into the first.
Nik Antropov's third goal made it 1-0 on the power play and gave the Thrashers the first goal in a home game this season.
Atlanta scored three goals in the second. Evander Kane's seventh, which came on a power play at 3:02, forced a 2-2 tie. Alexander Burmistrov's second goal gave the Thrashers a 3-2 lead, and Peverley's second was a power-play tally that put the Thrashers ahead 4-3.
Chicago avoided losing three straight for the first time since March 25-30.
The Blackhawks became the 12th of Atlanta's 14 opponents this season with at least 30 shots. It was the sixth time the Thrashers faced at least 40.
"We played a great game," said Pavelec (0-1-2) after making 36 saves. "I think we deserved to win. It was up and down, great power plays, but I should've made some saves there early."
Quenneville earned his 544th victory to take sole possession of 10th place on the NHL list, moving ahead of former Blackhawks coach Billy Reay. ... Chicago's Jeremy Morin, who made his NHL debut, limped off the ice after he blocked a shot by Johnny Oduya early in the third. Chicago acquired Morin in the June 24 trade that sent Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to Atlanta. ... Before Toews' first goal, Atlanta had killed 16 straight penalties over six games. ... The Blackhawks improved to 2-5-1 when allowing a power-play goal.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Philips Arena Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Referees: Wes McCauley, Paul Devorski Linesmen: Darren Gibbs, Jonny Murray