By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks broke a four-game losing streak at the HP Pavilion, rallying from an early two-goal deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 Tuesday night. The ‘Hawks remained unbeaten in regulation this season in a game that saw rookie Brandon Saad log his first NHL goal in a wild first period.
The Sharks were physical right from the start of the contest and it paid off in the form of a pair of early goals. San Jose laid some hard hits on Andrew Shaw along the boards and Duncan Keith behind the ‘Hawks net. Keith avoided big contact, but landed hard on his back.
With Keith temporarily on the bench, Joe Pavelski knocked in a bouncing puck created by Marc Edouard Vlasic’s shot from the point at the 2:53 mark of the first.
Minutes later, Tommy Wingles got the puck entering the Chicago zone and fired a lazer over the glove of Corey Crawford to make it 2-0 San Jose just 5:18 into the game. At this point, coach Joel Quenneville used his time out in an attempt to settle his team. It did just that as Chicago struck twine three times in the span of 89 seconds.
The ‘Hawks got on the board on a nice set of passes from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook that resulted in Saad’s inaugural goal. Toews and Seabrook worked a give and go with Seabrook finding Saad camped out beside the crease for the one-timer at the 10:08 mark.
San Jose returned the lead to two goals 39 seconds later with a Michal Handzus shot that beat Crawford to the short side. Wingles and Dan Boyle provided assists.
On the ensuing faceoff, Viktor Stalberg got control of the puck and threw it behind the Sharks net. Bryan Bickell got to the puck and fed Andrew Shaw for his second goal of the season at the 10:55 mark.
Moments later, Marcus Kruger tied the score seconds after winning a draw in the offensive zone. Michael Frolik put a shot on Niemi that looked like it would be cleared. However, the clearing attempt bounced off of Wingle’s skate and Kruger pounced on the loose puck for his first goal of the season at the 11:37 mark.
Nick Leddy was called for a slash with three minutes to go. Midway through the resulting power play, Toews won a race to the puck and might have scored without a big effort by Niemi. Toews did draw a holding penalty on Boyle that negated the Sharks advantage. Dave Bolland was knocking on the back door in the final seconds, but the pass was broken up by Justin Braun and the teams went to the locker room tied 3-3.
Both teams got to work defensively in the first half of the middle frame. Marian Hossa picked off a pass and looked to have a breakaway, but offside was called as the door to the ‘Hawks bench was open and Toews skated off and over the blue line.
The physical tone continued, boiling over when Jamal Mayers was knocked down by a big hit by Andrew Desjardens. Duncan Keith responded, dropping the gloves and taking on Desjardens while Mayers lay on the ice.
The Sharks center got five minutes for fighting and a five minute match penalty for a hit to the head. Keith got instigator and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties along with his fighting major.
In the four-on-four action that followed, Toews set up Patrick Kane after Kane had turned over a potential scoring chance. The captain regained possession from Douglas Murray and found Kane on the right side. Niemi got a piece of the shot, but not enough to keep Kane from giving Chicago a 4-3 lead 11:52 into the second period.
San Jose got an opportunity to tie the game after Kruger was called for tripping in the 17th minute, but the ‘Hawks PK snuffed out the threat and Chicago headed to the second intermission with a one-goal advantage.
Saad made a nice charge up the ice in the sixth minute of the third period and found Hossa near the right circle. Toews was open streaking up the middle, but the pass hopped over his stick. The Sharks came down and drew a holding penalty out of Leddy. Niemi gave the power play away by playing a puck in the restricted zone 11 seconds later, leading to some more four-on-four time.
Crawford and the ‘Hawks defense prevented San Jose to net the equalizer. The Sharks pulled Niemi with 90 seconds to play, but the extra man was short lived as Kane came up with the empty netter with 1:12 left.
–Nice to see the Rockford contingent of Saad, Shaw and Kruger come up with some offense in the first period.
–So far as the hit goes, it looked like Desjardens avoided a head shot, which is why I think he should avoid additional discipline from the league. The guy launched himself into Mayers, but all the contact looked to be shoulder to shoulder.
—Dave Bolland made his return after a one-game absence. Now if he could just improve at the dot. He won just seven of his 16 draws. Only Toews was over 50 percent on the night for the ‘Hawks.
–Crawford had some trouble handling his rebounds but was better than his counterpart, stopping 30 of 33 shots. That’s all Chicago needed Tuesday.
–Aside from his assist on Shaw’s goal, Bryan Bickell logged a solid 11:45 of physical play.
–Hard not to smile whenever the broadcast cut to the shot of Saad beaming after breaking his maiden.
–It’s nice that Chicago won a big road game over the team right behind them in the conference standings, though no hardware is likely to be handed out at this point of the season. Now 8-0-2 overall and 2-0-2 on the current road trip, it’s on to Phoenix for another go-round with the Coyotes Thursday night.