After breaking the three game win streak trend with a fourth consecutive victory in Montreal on Friday, the Sharks (19-12-1) ended their streak while the Blackhawks (22-8-4) extended their own four game winning streak by a score of 4-1.
Scott Darling was spectacular in the Chicago net, stopping 33 of 34 shots after going 5-2-1 since starter Corey Crawford’s emergency appendectomy on December 3rd. Darling had been shaky as of late, allowing four goals in each of his past two starts, but he made up for some of that play tonight. That’s not the only way the Blackhawks depth has been tested lately, as captain Jonathan Toews started tonight’s game centering Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Artem Anisimov out with an upper body injury sustained last night in St. Louis.
The Sharks struggled to get anything going during the first period, as they were outshot 10-6, and went over 12 minutes without a shot on goal, a Logan Couture wrister at 7:21. It seemed like every skater was struggling a little, maybe the ice at United Center was less than ideal, as it seemed like there were a lot of bobbled pucks and lost edges through the first 20. Further, the Sharks in particular really struggled to get anything going in the neutral zone, as the Hawks’ zone seemed to extend straight through to the Sharks’ blue line at times.
The Sharks finally got a shot on goal at 1:13 of the second period, as Joe Pavelski made it 1-0 for the Sharks. Paul Martin wired a long cross ice pass to Brent Burns at the right point, who launched one of his beautiful snap shots towards the net, and a Paveski tip guided the puck past Darling and in, as he is wont to do. With the primary assist on the goal, Burns extended his point streak to eight games.
The Sharks pushed well for the majority of the second, and would likely have headed to the dressing room up by two or three without some great saves by Darling. The Hawks looked a little disorganized, maybe starting to feel the effects of playing in St. Louis the night before, but Duncan Keith felt fine, apparently, as he scored his first goal of the season to tie it up at 16:49. A reaching tap to keep the puck on side at the blue line started an offensive push with the Sharks out of position, and Keith’s first slap shot bounced of the end boards right to Artemi Panarin, who scooted it right back to Keith who one-timed it short side past Martin Jones.
The Sharks kept the pressure on into the third period until a scary moment a few minutes in, as Melker Karlsson left the ice after running into Tyler Motte’s elbow in the defensive zone. Clearly no intent from Motte to make that kind of contact, but Karlsson wasn’t seen again for the remainder of the game.
The Hawks got their first lead of the night at 6:59, as Ryan Hartman collapsed into a faceoff just to Jones’ left, and rifled a wrister into the far side top corner to make it 2-1 Blackhawks.
Chicago wasn’t done yet, and Vinnie Hinostroza put it out of reach at 17:40 of the third, potting what looked like a pretty stoppable five-hole shot on Martin Jones. Hinostroza and Marian Hossa jumped out to a two-on-one against Paul Martin, Hinostroza faked the pass to his left, and wristed the puck past Jones for Chicago’s third.
An empty net goal from Patrick Kane sealed the deal at 19:13 and the Blackhawks walked away from this one with two points, and a little more room up at the top of the NHL league standings.
- The Sharks outshot Chicago 34-26, and have a lot of good things to take away from this one. A rare forgettable night from Martin Jones shouldn’t take too much away from the things they did right.
- I was kind of hoping for a Joel Ward performance in line with what Joonas Donskoi did on Friday, after being reinserted into the lineup after a healthy scratch. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t look a whole lot better than he has all year.
- The Sharks missed an opportunity to take over second in the West, and to put some distance over the Anaheim Ducks for first in the Pacific tonight. We’ll have to be Leafs fans tomorrow night, I guess. Gross.
- When will Mikkel Boedker finish one of these great chances he’s getting? After a while it starts to feel less like bad luck and more like a lack of finishing ability. I sure hope it’s the former, as I was a big proponent of this signing in the offseason. -3 on the night.
- Holy Hell, do I miss Andrew Desjardins. This isn’t really an observation on this game, but my therapist said I should be more open about my grieving process.
FTF Three Stars
- Scott Darling
- Ryan Hartman
- Joe Pavelski