NHL: Blackhawks top Sharks, chase Niemi

10
Sharks

In three previous meetings against Antti Niemi, the Chicago
Blackhawks could do very little right against their former
goaltender. In the fourth, they could do no wrong.
CHICAGO

In three previous meetings against Antti Niemi, the Chicago Blackhawks could do very little right against their former goaltender. In the fourth, they could do no wrong.

The Hawks rode the wave of a five-goal second period to rally past the Sharks 6-3 on Monday night at the United Center. The win was the Hawks’ first over San Jose — and Niemi — this season and vaulted the Stanley Cup champions back into fourth place in the Western Conference.

The top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp again did much of the damage as the trio combined for eight points. Toews and Kane each had a goal and an assist while Sharp had a career-high four assists. Marian Hossa had two goals and Viktor Stalberg and Niklas Hjalmarsson also scored as the Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak.

“It was a good second period for us,” Sharp said. “It was a big win against a team we’re chasing in the standings. It was just one of those periods where everything was going right for our team and we scored a bunch of goals.”

Corey Crawford earned the win in goal for the Hawks, allowing goals by the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. Niemi, who didn’t survive the second-period barrage, took the loss as the Sharks lost for just the seventh time in their last 25 games.

After Pavelski opened the scoring, Stalberg evened it when the winger batted a puck out of midair past Niemi. Thornton countered for San Jose late in the period.

It was all Hawks in the second as Hossa scored twice on the power play to put them in front for good. First, the winger took a feed from Sharp and solved Niemi to the stick side. Then the veteran went five-hole from the slot — following another pass from Sharp — and the Hawks had the lead at 3-2.

With the crowd of 22,094 still buzzing, Toews extended the lead when he broke in two-on-one with Kane and the Hawks’ captain picked his spot — between Niemi’s pads — and scored his 30th goal of the season. That also gave Toews a career-high 70 points on the season.

That was enough for Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who yanked Niemi in favor of Antero Niittymaki. That didn’t slow the Hawks as Hjalmarsson sent a shot from just inside the blue line that sailed through traffic and it was 5-2.

Couture brought the Sharks to within two late in the period, but Kane squelched any thoughts of a San Jose comeback 22 seconds later when he rifled a one-timer from the left circle following another assist from Sharp. The goal was Kane’s 100th of his career, making him the third-youngest player in Hawks history to hit the century mark, behind Jeremy Roenick and Bobby Hull.

Sharp’s fourth assist tied a franchise record for helpers in a period.

— Story by Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

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