SAN JOSE – Patrick Kane broke a tie game shortly after a controversial penalty call, and the Chicago Blackhawks won the battle of first place teams on Tuesday at HP Pavilion, 5-3.
The Blackhawks took a 4-3 lead with the only goal in the second, coming during a four-on-four after a blown call.
First, the goal. Douglas Murray had his pocket picked by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in front of the Sharks’ net, and Toews quickly sent a pass through the slot to Kane. Kane’s one-timer into an open net at 11:52 gave Chicago its first lead.
At the time, though, a strong case can be made that the Sharks should have been enjoying a four-minute power play. Andrew Desjardins drilled Jamal Mayars with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit at the blue line, flattening the tough winger. Duncan Keith came to the aid of Mayers, instigating a fight with Desjardins while wearing a face shield.
Keith was issued a double minor, but Desjardins was punished with a five-minute match penalty for a phantom hit to the head, all at 8:48. The teams played four-on-four for the next four minutes, during which Kane gave Chicago the lead. The Blackhawks had a one-minute power play, too, but did not convert.
Under NHL rules, Desjardins’ hit will be reviewed by the league. Match penalties can be rescinded, and it’s likely Desjardins won’t receive any further punishment.
Kane’s empty net goal with 1:12 left sealed the win for Chicago, which remains the only team in the league without a regulation loss (8-0-2). The Sharks fell to 7-2-1.
The Sharks led 2-0 when the teams combined for four goals in just 1:29 – three by Chicago.
First, Brandon Saad cut into the San Jose lead when he swept in a puck off of Justin Braun at 10:08 for his first career NHL goal. The Sharks regained the two-goal cushion quickly, though, when Tommy Wingels brought the puck into the offensive zone and fed Michal Handzus in the circle. Handzus’ first goal at 10:47 made it 3-1, Sharks.
The Blackhawks called timeout, and responded just eight seconds later. Andrew Shaw got open in front of the net and deposited a pass from Bryan Bickell at 10:55. Chicago tied it 43 seconds after that goal when Justin Braun failed to clear a rebound in front of Antti Niemi, and Marcus Kruger deposited the loose puck at 11:47.
The Sharks used their own timeout after Kruger’s goal, and very nearly took the lead back, but Corey Crawford stopped Patrick Marleau in front of the net on a pretty pass from Logan Couture, and denied Handzus from the high slot a little later.
Goals by Joe Pavelski at 2:53 and Wingels at 5:18 staked the Sharks an early lead that did not last. Wingels’ goal marked the first goal by the Sharks’ third line this season, which Handzus followed up shortly after.
The Sharks continued their recent trend of strong penalty killing, and ineffective power plays.
San Jose has not allowed a power play goal in seven straight games, going 31-for-31 over that span. The Blackhawks finished 0-for-4.
Conversely, the Sharks were 0-for-3 on the power play, and are now just 1-for-21 in the last five games. Chicago entered the game with the NHL’s top ranked PK.
Niemi returned to the crease after Thomas Greiss started Monday in Anaheim, and made 26 saves. He suffered his first regulation loss (6-1-1).
Crawford allowed three goals on the first six shots he faced, but settled in to make 30 saves to record his sixth win (6-0-2).
The Sharks, who had not scored more than two goals in regulation in the last four games, completely rearranged their forward lines. Joe Thornton centered Pavelski and Ryane Clowe; Couture was between Marty Havlat and Marleau; Handzus skated with Wingels and James Sheppard, and Scott Gomez was the fourth line center with Desjardins and Adam Burish. McLellan mixed and matched in the second half of the game with Desjardins in the locker room.
Dan Boyle returned after missing Monday night’s game in Anaheim with the flu. Jason Demers sat in order to make room for Boyle. TJ Galiardi was also a healthy scratch.
The Sharks have a rare three-day break between games, and host the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. San Jose begins a six-game road trip in Columbus on Monday, Feb. 11.
Sheppard got his first point in the NHL since March 26, 2010 at Detroit. …. Linesman Jonny Murray was shaken up in the second period after getting struck by a Marc-Edouard Vlasic clearing attempt on a Hawks power play.