CHICAGO – Three first period goals in less than three minutes, by three different Blackhawks defensemen, proved to be too much for the Sharks to recover from in a 5-2 loss at United Center on Sunday night.
A pair of goals by Joe Pavelski brought the Sharks back to within 3-2 in the second period, but Bryan Bickell’s turnaround wrist shot beat Antti Niemi with 4:42 to go in regulation for added insurance. An empty net goal by Jonathan Toews with 1:57 left capped the scoring.
The Sharks fell to 1-1 on their seven-game road trip that began with a win in Dallas on Saturday night, while the Blackhawks improved to 7-0-1 against the Sharks in the last eight meetings in Chicago. The teams meet twice more this season, both in San Jose.
Trevor van Riemsdyk’s first NHL goal came after an offensive zone faceoff win by Toews. The rookie’s shot from the point had eyes and found the back of the net at the 12-minute mark.
Brent Seabrook increased Chicago’s lead at 14:10. After a huge pile up around Niemi’s goal crease Brad Richards took control of the loose disc behind the net and worked it out to Seabrook, whose low, hard shot snuck inside the far post.
Niklas Hjalmarsson’s first goal of the season came after he crept in behind Tommy Wingels, took a soft pass from Marian Hossa, and went high on Niemi at 14:34.
The Blackhawks outshot the Sharks in the first period, 20-9.
San Jose got one back by the end of the frame, when Pavelski positioned himself in front of the net and managed to get the blade of his stick on Justin Braun’s point shot. The puck deflected off of Pavelski’s torso and past Corey Crawford at 15:32.
The Sharks had surrendered just three first period goals through 14 games before Saturday in Dallas, but have now given up five in their past two games.
San Jose had a strong second period, outshooting the Blackhawks 11-6 and coming back to within a goal.
It came on the power play. Andrew Shaw’s high stick to the face of Joe Thornton gave San Jose a four-minute advantage. After not being able to take his normal shift on the top unit due to needed repairs on the bench, Thornton eventually was able to get on the ice and set up Pavelski for an easy conversion at 4:51.
The Sharks’ best chance to tie the score before the intermission came with eight minutes to go, but Crawford sealed up his five-hole on a Barclay Goodrow breakaway.
There were a pair of late altercations, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Kris Versteeg went at it right after Toews’ goal. Former Hawks forward Adam Burish and Jeremy Morin dropped the gloves with 1:34 to go.
The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Chicago was 0-for-2, including a late five-on-three when the game was already decided.
Pavelski’s second goal was just the second power play goal that Chicago has allowed at home this season. The Blackhawks had been 17-of-18 on the PK in their first eight games at United Center, and entered with the NHL’s top ranked unit overall.
Niemi continued to struggle against his former team, especially in Chicago, allowing four goals on 36 shots. The goalie fell to 1-6-1 career at United Center while a member of the Sharks, with the only win coming in his very first start here.
Crawford made 32 saves, and is 5-2-3 in his career against San Jose.
Goodrow and Scott Hannan were both reinserted into the lineup for Tye McGinn and Matt Irwin, respectively. Goodrow and Hannan were healthy scratches against Dallas on Saturday.
James Sheppard’s career-high four-game point streak, including goals in three straight, came to an end.
Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin was in attendance, taking in the game from the press box.
The Sharks continue their road trip with a pair of games in the Sunshine State, Tuesday against Florida and Thursday in Tampa Bay. They have three games in four nights starting on Saturday in Columbus and continuing on to Carolina on Sunday and Buffalo next Tuesday, Nov. 18.