After squandering a two goal lead on Friday night against the Washington Capitals, the Blackhawks returned to the United Center on Sunday night and soundly defeated the San Jose Sharks by a score of 5-2.
The Blackhawks got right to work in the first period by scoring three unanswered goals in approximately two and a half minutes. The first of these three goals came from Kris Versteeg at the twelve minute mark when he redirected a shot from rookie defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk and past former Blackhawk goaltender Antti Niemi. Everyone in the building, including the announcers, thought the goal was Van Riemsdyk’s first NHL goal; however, the goal was later awarded to Versteeg. The goal was Versteeg’s fourth of the season, with Van Riemsdyk and Jonathan Toews, who won the preceding face off, credited with the assists.
The Blackhawks’ second goal came just over two minutes later when veteran defensemen Brent Seabrook scored off another shot from the point. The shot was set up beautifully by the grinding work of Brad Richards who worked the puck down low before passing the puck out to a wide open Seabrook at the point. The goal was Seabrook’s third of the season. Richards and recent call up Peter Regin were credited with the assists.
With the score 2-0 in favor of the Blackhawks, the home team would strike again just 24 seconds later off a suburb pass by Marian Hossa and subsequent shot from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. The goal was Hjalmarsson’s first of the season, with assists credited to Hossa and Marcus Kruger.
Unfortunately, the Sharks refused to go quietly and managed a deflection of their own by Joe Pavelski off a shot from the point by Justin Braun with 4:28 left to play in the first period to make it a 3-1 game.
At 4:51 of the second period Joe Pavelski and the Sharks would strike again, this time on the power play when taking advantage of an Andrew Shaw high sticking double minor penalty, when a streaking Pavelski picked up his seventh goal of the season off a perfect back door pass from Joe Thornton. The assist was Thornton’s tenth helper of the season.
With the score close at 3-2 and 7:57 to play in the middle period, Blackhawks’ goaltender Corey Crawford decided to make his presence felt when he rose to the occasion and stopped a clear breakaway chance by the Sharks. As a result of one of Crawford’s 32 total saves on the night, the second period would end with the Blackhawks still ahead 3-2 instead of tied at three.
It wasn’t until late in the third period that an unlikely hero would emerge for the Blackhawks. Bryan Bickell seemed to take matters into his own hands when with 4:42 left to play he muscled the puck from behind the net and spun and fired a shot past a falling Niemi. Johnny Oduya and Brandon Saad were credited with assists on the play, but the play was no doubt a solo effort from Bickell.
Trailing 4-2 with 2:41 to play in the final period, the Sharks got aggressive and pulled Niemi from the net for the extra attacker. The Blackhawks Jonathan Toews made sure this risk did not pay off when he buried a wrist shot from the blue line and into the back of the empty net soon after.
With the score 5-2 and only a couple minutes remaining, the Sharks displayed their frustration and the fisticuffs began. The Blackhawks’ Versteeg engaged Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while Jeremy Morin got into a scrap with former Blackhawk Adam Burish shortly thereafter. Fortunately, none of these extracurricular activities changed matters on the scoreboard, as the game ended with a score of 5-2.
The Blackhawks (8-6-1), who currently sit in fourth place of the Central Division with 17 points, return to the ice when they take on the red hot Tampa Bay Lightning (11-3-1) Tuesday, November 11th at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised locally on Comcast Sports Net.