By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks returned to the United Center for the first time in 2014, hosting the San Jose Sharks for the second time this season. The Hawks rallied from a goal down in the third period Sunday but ultimately fell to the Sharks 3-2 in a shootout.
San Jose elected to start backup goalie Alex Stalock after Antti Niemi had a rough afternoon in Colorado Saturday. Stalock stopped 33 of 35 shots as well as both Chicago shootout attempts to pick up the win.
First Period– However, it was Hawks starter Corey Crawford who provided the first real scoring opportunity in the fourth minute. The Sharks Justin Braun picked off Crawford’s pass at the right circle but his shot struck the right post.
Michal Handzus took a nice feed from Brandon Saad in the eighth minute but Stalock had the left post covered and the shot was deflected into the corner. The action was back and forth, though Chicago had outshot the Sharks 7-1 headed into the first TV timeout.
The Sharks put together some sustained pressure on Crawford when the teams came back out from the timeout, culminating in the game’s first goal. Jason Demers took a pass from Logan Couture coming from behind the Hawks net and slapped the puck into the far corner. San Jose led 1-0 at the 10:12 mark.
Late in the period, Mike Brown knocked Johnny Oduya into the boards in the Hawks zone, prompting Brandon Bollig to come over in defense of his teammate. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the only player sent to the box was Bollig for roughing. The penalty kill unit held firm for the last 1:14 of the period and skated into the locker room down a goal.
Second Period-Crawford stopped a deflection and got on the puck as the Hawks penalty was ending. Back at even strength, Crawford denied Couture’s attempt a few minutes later.
Joel Quenneville flipped his second and third line centers, moving Andrew Shaw up with Kane and Shaw in place of Handzus. The top line generated a couple of shots but Stalock was in control of his net as the game reached the midway point.
At the 11:30 mark, Stalock had to cover a loose puck in front of the crease when Keith got off a shot. Chicago put together a couple of good shifts that came up empty.
With just over five minutes left in the period, Crawford stopped a pair of shots by Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski off of a Sharks faceoff win in the Chicago zone. A minute later, he denied Patrick Marleau in front of the net.
Crawford was able to stop a number of San Jose shots despite the Sharks winning faceoffs in the Hawks zone and firing away. He turned away Couture in the 19th minute coming at his right post.
The Sharks outshot Chicago 15-12 in the middle frame but Crawford’s play kept the deficit at one after 40 minutes.
Third Period-The Sharks continued to generate scoring opportunities off of faceoff wins. Crawford stopped three such attempts in the first minute of the final period.
In the second minute, Toews won an offensive draw of his own. Oduya sent the puck around the boards, where Toews eventually got possession from Patrick Sharp. Niklas Hjalmarsson skated hard into the slot, took a pass from the captain and delivered the equalizer past Stalock 1:27 into the third.
The Hawks took the lead less than three minutes later. The play started with Marcus Kruger picking up the biscuit in the neutral zone and skating along the right boards into the Sharks zone. Kruger sent the puck back out to Rozsival at the blue line and the defenseman rifled a slap shot by Stalock to give Chicago a 2-1 lead at the 4:01 mark.
Marleau led a 2-on-1 in the ninth minute but Crawford stopped the attempt. Seconds later, Marleau looked to have an empty net and a loose puck at the doorstep after Joe Thornton sent a backhand on net. Kruger tied up Marleau’s stick and saved the goal for Chicago.
The Sharks evened the score with 8:50 to play. Thornton was looking for another shot at the right circle but was tied up by Oduya. Thornton tapped a backhand across the crease, where Pavelski was there to knock it in.
The Hawks had a great chance late when Hossa hustled into the Sharks zone to save an icing penalty. Stalock momentarily lost his stick but kept the puck out of the net. Crawford withstood a San Jose push in the final 30 seconds to force extra time.
Overtime-Chicago won the faceoff and Toews was stopped on a wraparound attempt. San Jose came up the ice with numbers but couldn’t get off a shot.
Kane swiped a puck and set up Hossa for a shot that went into Stalock’s glove. In the final minute, Hjalmarsson’s slap shot was gloved by Stalock. Crawford sent away San Jose’s last shot and the contest was headed for the shootout.
Shootout-Toews was denied by Stalock’s right pad. Couture found twine to the stick side. Sharp missed the net on his attempt before Pavelski sent the game-winner over Crawford’s glove.
Three Stars-Crawford (third), Couture (second), Stalock (first).
-Brown was pretty close to committing a boarding of Oduya late in the first, which begged the question of whether the officials really needed to assess a penalty on Bollig for what amounted to a little shoving. Bollig’s infraction was the only one of the game for both teams.
-Neither Antti Raanta or Antti Niemi were on the ice Sunday night, though Eddie Olczyk offered up a Antti-inspired Freudian slip when breaking down a Crawford turnover early in the game.
-San Jose won the battle of the dot 40-35 and generated much of its offense off of victories in the Hawks zone. Handzus was 10 of 16 to lead Chicago.
-Crawford played a great game and deserved better than his second loss since returning from his injury. He faced 42 shots in 65 minutes, making 40 saves and giving the Hawks the chance to get back in the game in the third period.
-Q shortened his bench in the final 20 minutes, with Bollig and Bickell riding the pine. In all, Bickell was on the ice for just 5:20 Sunday.
-Sharp went off the ice during overtime with what looked to be a shoulder issue after a collision but was back out for the shootout.
-The Hawks get a couple nights off before hosting the Rangers Wednesday.