Patrick Sharp (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Patrick Sharp scored a goal and added a penalty shot tally late in the game, and Kris Versteeg, Jonathan Toews, and Brandon Pirri also added goals as the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the San Jose Sharks by a score of 5-1 on Sunday night.
The Blackhawks started out the game on their heels a bit as the high-flying Sharks’ offense got into gear quickly. Fortunately for Chicago, they did get some great defensive plays from several players, including Nick Leddy’s interception of a pass on a 2-on-1 and Brandon Saad’s stick lift on Tomas Hertl’s push through the middle of the ice kept the game scoreless early on.
It was that kind of defensive effort that ultimately allowed the Hawks to settle into a comfort zone, and they struck late in the first period. Patrick Kane skated the puck up ice, and then pulled up to allow more pressure to come into the picture. Nick Leddy got to the front of the net to distract Niemi, and Kane snapped a shot that hit traffic in front. Fortunately for the Hawks, Pirri was there to pick up the rebound, and flipped it into the empty net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks managed to control possession well through the end of the first period, but the Sharks weren’t willing to give up. They got some decent chances on an early power play in the second period, but aggressive forechecking from guys like Johnny Oduya prevented the Sharks from getting any sustained possessions going, and the Hawks maintained their lead.
Unfortunately, Corey Crawford had a bit of a hiccup a short time later, as he gloved a shot by Sharks center Joe Pavelski. As he went to stand up from the butterfly after making the play though, the puck slid out of his glove and ended up in the back of the net, and on that odd goal, the Sharks tied things up at 1-1.
The Blackhawks weren’t content to let the game stay tied for long though. Marcus Kruger skated the puck hard into the Sharks’ zone, and pulled a nice curl move to get some space on the rush, and he finds a streaking Sharp with a brilliant pass, and the Hawks’ alternate captain doesn’t miss as he gave the Hawks the 2-1 advantage.
Early in the third period, the Hawks got their offense to work early on. Toews grabbed the puck in the offensive zone, and taking advantage of some great traffic from Ben Smith, Toews fired it on goal. The puck did hit traffic in front, but the Hawks’ captain never gave up on the play, and he grabbed his own rebound and quickly put the puck on his backhand side and put it in the net to extend the Blackhawks’ lead to two goals.
With their defense playing outstanding hockey in the middle of the ice, the Hawks were able to get some great pressure on the edges, and they finally saw the fruits of their labor in the latter stages of the game. Brandon Saad broke out on a breakaway thanks to a great pass from Versteeg, and even though Antti Niemi was able to stop his shot, Versteeg followed the play up closely with some outstanding secondary pressure, and he flipped the puck into the open net to push the lead to 4-1.
As if that wasn’t enough, Sharp hopped out on another breakaway late in the game, and even though he was hooked on the play, he was awarded a penalty shot. Showing off some quick hands, he got Niemi to commit to the near post, and as soon as Sharp flipped the puck back to his forehand, he didn’t miss the shot, putting it top shelf to give the Hawks their final 5-1 margin of victory.
This will be the Hawks’ final home game until December 3rd, as they embark on their annual Circus Trip on Tuesday night when they face the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.