SAN JOSE –- The Sharks erased a pair of early deficits, but Chicago took complete control in the third period to beat San Jose on Saturday afternoon at SAP Center, 6-2.
Brandon Saad’s early third period marker broke a 2-2 tie. Teuvo Teravainen lofted the puck into the offensive zone towards Saad, who received the puck and slipped it through Antti Niemi at 1:21 after Mirco Mueller fell over while trying to glove the airborne puck.
The Blackhawks kept up the pressure and made it 4-2 at 4:56. Matt Irwin lost track of Brad Richards behind the Sharks’ net, and Richards found Bryan Bickell in the slot for an open look that he did not miss.
Patrick Sharp’s power play goal, a slap shot from the top of the circle that deflected in off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 15:10, put the game away. It was Sharp’s second goal of the day. Marian Hossa’s empty-netter with 2:16 to go capped the scoring.
The Sharks (34-27-8, 76 points) remain four points behind Vancouver for third place in the Pacific Division, and three points behind the Kings for the second wild card spot. Each of those teams plays later Saturday, and has two games in hand on San Jose.
Despite the final score, the Sharks showed no signs of being flat or distracted one day after Joe Thornton suggested general manager Doug Wilson “shut his mouth” in response Wilson’s comments to a group of season ticket holders on why Thornton’s captaincy was stripped in the offseason. The game was closer than the score would indicate, as the Sharks hung with the Blackhawks for much of the afternoon, but Chicago capitalized on enough San Jose errors to win its sixth game in the last eight (6-1-1).
San Jose finished 2-2-0 on a four-game homestand, and now faces 10 of its final 13 games on the road.
The Sharks stormed out of the gate and registered the first seven shots on goal, but Chicago withstood the onslaught and took a 1-0 lead at 6:03. Sharp sped past Justin Braun on a partial breakaway, put the original shot off of Niemi’s pad, and flipped in his own rebound.
The goal ended a string of seven straight games in which the Sharks had scored first.
San Jose responded, though. Irwin’s wrist shot rebounded to Melker Karlsson, and the rookie rammed home his 12th goal and third in the last five games.
Irwin returned after a three-game absence with an upper body injury. He has one point in each of his last five games.
Chicago regained the lead in the second, but the Sharks again responded, as the teams traded power play goals.
Brenden Dillon’s blatant interference on Andrew Shaw put the Blackhawks on a power play. Duncan Keith’s one-timer found the top far corner at 8:45, with Shaw screening Niemi.
Thornton’s 14th goal of the year tied it, though. San Jose was on a man advantage when Thornton directed a puck towards the net, and it was inadvertently tipped past Corey Crawford by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Chicago won two of the three games in the season series. The Sharks fell to 11-5-1 against the Central Division.
The Sharks went 1-for-4 on the power play, with Thornton getting his third power play goal of the year.
Chicago was 2-for-4. San Jose had allowed just two power play goals against in its previous five games.
Niemi started for the ninth time in the last 10 games, and lost for just the second time in his career to Chicago at SAP Center (6-2-0). He allowed five goals on 29 shots.
Crawford, who beat the Sharks in Chicago earlier this season, improved to 28-14-5 on the season with 33 saves.
Scott Hannan came out of the lineup for Irwin. Daniil Tarasov, recalled from Worcester earlier in the day, was also scratched.
Chicago remains without Patrick Kane due to a broken left clavicle.
Sharks forward Ben Smith and Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins faced their former teams for the first time, less than two weeks after a trade between the two clubs.
The Sharks will take Sunday off, practice at home on Monday, and fly to Winnipeg for an important showdown with the Jets at MTS Centre on Tuesday. San Jose is 2-0 against the Jets this season.
The seven-game road trip continues to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Sharks don’t play at home again until April 1 vs. Colorado.