By Brad Gardner
Despite a better effort at both ends of the ice from the Blackhawks, it was still not enough to get past Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. Despite a pronounced lead in the shot count and possession time, the Blackhawks fell by a score of 1-0 for their third consecutive regulation loss.
San Jose was strong out of the gate, registering four shots on Corey Crawford in the first four and a half minutes. The Sharks’ offense was limited by a couple penalties as well as Chicago’s puck possession and managed only one shot through the last 15 minutes of the first.
The ‘Hawks finished the first with 10 shots on Niemi, including a pair of breakaways. Brent Burns whiffed on clear and Marian Hossa picked up the loose puck but shot high. Bryan Bickell broke in alone shortly after, but Niemi was able to square up and snuff out another chance.
Momentum went back and forth in the second period as the team’s traded penalties and prime scoring chances. Jamie McGinn rang a shot off the post just after a San Jose power play ended and then leveled Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy for good measure. Hossa had another great opportunity when he split between the San Jose defensive pairing of Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle but his backhand shot went off the outside of the net.
Just after the Blackhawks power play unit came up empty on their third chance midway through the second, Dave Bolland had one of Chicago’s best chances of the game off of a between-the-legs centering pass from Marcus Kruger. Bolland missed the net while Niemi was down and with Murray in the crease trying to get in the way of the shot.
San Jose finally broke the deadlock on a power play late in the second. Dave Bolland was called for a hooking penalty when his stick got up around the hands of Joe Thornton. Ryan Clowe chipped the opening faceoff back to the blue line and Jason Demers blasted a shot towards the net. The puck deflected off the stick of Jonathan Toews, skipped off the ice, and bounced past the shoulder of Crawford. Demers’ first goal of the season game at 17:08 of the second.
The ‘Hawks withstood pressure from the Sharks at the start of the third period to stay within a goal. San Jose carried over nearly a minute of power play time, but it was an excellent possession just after the penalty expired that hemmed Chicago into their defensive zone and forced a long shift out of the Leddy and Sean O’Donnell pairing.
Chicago had about a minute of power play time later in the third but could not convert on their fourth opportunity with the man advantage. Niemi finished the game with 34 saves for his first shutout of the season.
– Brent Seabrook remained out of the line-up. He did not take part in the morning skate Wednesday but was expected to test out his injury before the start of the game. He never took the ice for warm-ups, missing his fourth consecutive game after crashing into the end boards at home against Edmonton.
– With Michael Frolik returning to the line-up, the healthy scratches for Chicago were Ben Smith and Sami Lepisto.
– 3 stars of the game….. 1. Antti Niemi, 2. Jason Demers, 3. Marian Hossa
– Patrick Kane led all skaters with seven shots on net, but Marian Hossa had the best chances for Chicago. He had several breakaways and odd-man rushes over the course of the game but couldn’t convert.
– Duncan Keith had no where to go but up after his last two duds in Alberta. He led all skaters with 29:18 of ice time and registered a season-high six shots on net. He also made a few plays with his stick in the defensive zone to break up passes or block the shooting lane. Still had the most giveaways of any ‘Hawks with three.
– Dan Boyle was responsible for the first three Chicago power plays – of course, none of them resulted in goals. His second penalty was a cross-check to the back of Bryan Bickell as he approached the end boards. Bickell got right up to his feet, but it was still a play by Boyle that could be reviewed by the league.
– San Jose is now 7-1-1 in November. Their two standings points brought them into a tie with Chicago for second in the Western Conference at 27 points. The Sharks still have three games in hand on the Blackhawks.
– Chicago’s losing streak was extended to three games, but it was still a big step forward from the last two games in Alberta. The ‘Hawks out-shot the Sharks 34-21 and were able to possess the puck for long stretches. Niemi saw plenty of shots from a distance or bad angles, but he stopped them all and did not give up many second chances.
– There is turkey on tap Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. Puck drop is 3pm cst.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for PuckChatter.com / TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks’ correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.