Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Despite third period goals from Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Rozsival, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t fend off the San Jose Sharks, as Alex Stalock made 33 saves en route to a 3-2 shootout victory.
Corey Crawford made 40 saves in the game for the Blackhawks, but he was unable to stop Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski in the shootout, and Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews both failed to score.
The game started out just as a matchup between two of the best offenses in the NHL should, with several good chances going both ways. Brandon Saad used some of his dynamic speed to get around the San Jose defense and forced a shot on Stalock, who was able to push it away, and then Justin Braun went the other way and rang a shot off the post after it beat Crawford in the crease.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it was the Sharks who were able to take advantage of their chances first. Logan Couture got the puck in behind the Chicago net, and he fed the puck to Jason Demers. Despite tumbling to the ice in the process, Demers flipped a shot past Crawford, and the Sharks got a 1-0 lead as a result.
The Hawks’ goaltender did seem to settle down as a result of that goal, and made a couple of great saves as the period wore on. His biggest one came when Andrew Desjardins came in on a breakaway after a great pass by Demers found him in open ice. Crawford came out of the crease to force Desjardin’s hand on the play, and Crawford was able to make a relatively easy save as a result of his well-timed aggression.
Brandon Bollig picked up a late penalty at the end of the first, but thanks to some more great goaltending by Crawford, the infraction was killed off as the second period got underway. Crawford had to stand on his head a bit as the second wore on, ultimately stopping 15 shots in the period. One sequence in particular stood out as both Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski got doorstep chances, but Crawford was up to the task.
The Blackhawks were getting some good opportunities too, but most of their chances were one-and-done sequences as Stalock did a good job of controlling rebounds and his Sharks’ teammates got into passing lanes and blocked plenty of shots as the second wore on. The Blackhawks did have 23 shots on goal after two periods, but none of them found their way home as the Sharks still led the game 1-0.
Early in the third period though, that run of great play from Stalock and his friends ended as the Blackhawks tied things up. Patrick Sharp passed the puck to Jonathan Toews below the goal line, and when the captain made a move back toward the blue line, Hjalmarsson pinched in, and after receiving a pass he ripped a slap shot past Stalock’s glove to tie the game at 1-1.
After another great save by Crawford on a point shot from Dan Boyle, the Blackhawks struck again. This time, it was Marcus Kruger driving into the offensive zone to corral the puck after a dump and chase pass, and when Kruger did get the puck, he passed it back to Rozsival, whose shot somehow got past Stalock for his first goal of the season.
Despite the 1-2 punch, the Sharks weren’t in a mood to give up, and they scored to tie things up with just a little under nine minutes left in the game. Joe Thornton got the puck alongside the Hawks’ net, and after Johnny Oduya’s sliding poke check blocked a Thornton shot, the veteran Sharks’ forward regrouped, got the puck, and feathered a gorgeous pass across the crease to a wide open Burns, who knocked down Hjalmarsson and then popped the puck into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The game’s closing minutes saw plenty of action, as both teams got some great scoring opportunities. Stalock lost his stick during one particularly crazy sequence, but the Sharks stood firm and blocked down a couple of Hawks’ shot attempts to bail their goalie out. Then, Crawford had to make a couple of great saves of his own in the waning seconds, making his 37th save of the game just before the horn sounded.
The Sharks got the first good opportunity of the overtime frame, with a 3-on-1 rush going into the Blackhawks’ zone. Their shot attempt at the side of the net went just high as the Blackhawks came back in support on defense, and the game remained tied. Most of the remaining chances, like Kane’s backhand on the rush, ended up either just wide or becoming easy saves for both goaltenders, and the game headed to a shootout with no resolution.
After Toews was stopped by Stalock to start out the shootout, Couture scored his seventh shootout goal of the season to put the Sharks up1-0. Sharp’s shot ended up wide to start out the second round, and Pavelski fired home a wrist shot past Crawford’s glove to give the Sharks a 3-2 victory.
The Blackhawks will have a couple of days off before their next game, a home tilt against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.