Every now and again the old, helpless lady beats up the tall, grizzled would-be purse snatcher. On Tuesday night at the United Center, the San Jose Sharks did just that, somehow escaping a violent assault at the hands of the dominant Blackhawks.
And, they did so using their top guns, as both Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley had a goal and an assist in a game the Sharks were only able to muster 14 shots – and only four and three in the first and second periods, respectively.
Most importantly, they were able to score early. Immediately following a productive – though not fruitful – Hawk power play just a few minutes into the game, a neat Dan Boyle play in the Hawk zone gave Heatley an opportunity for a quick one-on-one against Huet deep. Huet made the first move, and Heatley made him pay, beating him upstairs.
The Sharks were able to weather the Hawks’ 26 shots during the first two periods and got a break when Kris Versteeg made a fatal – and unfortunately familiar – mistake on the power play, floating a no-look pass to the middle of the ice at the Shark blue line. Joe Pavelski stole the puck and made a nice pass to Thornton on the ensuing 2-on-2. Jumbo Joe got a free shot down low on Huet, who again made the first move before Thornton beat him up high with a backhand. It gave the Sharks two goals on no more than seven shots and a two-goal lead headed to the third period.
The Hawks big chance in the frame came when Toews found himself staring at an empty net from the Shark goal line. His hurried attempt to stuff it home hit both posts before bouncing out of the crease.
They weren’t out of it, though, as evinced by their 21 shots in the third. They finally hit paydirt when Joel Quenneville decided to reunite Marian Hossa with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Just four minutes into the final frame, Hossa won a battle behind the net and slid it in front to Patrick Kane, who snuck it behind Evgeyni Nabokov.
After a Sharks’ icing infraction off the ensuing face-off, however, Quenneville rolled the dice, again calling on Toews, Hossa and Kane for the draw in the Shark zone. The Sharks won it, and immediately came back the other way, where a nifty Heatley pass found Jason Demers in the high slot. Demers threw a shot on Huet, who apparently lost himself in the net. The shot beat Huet far side and gave the Sharks a two-goal lead only 20 seconds after they’d relinquished it.
The Hawks wouldn’t be held down, though. Numerous chances were stopped before Hossa walked the goal line on a 4-on-4 and beat Nabokov up high with less than two minutes left.
A mad scramble late wasn’t enough to take the Hawks to overtime, and the Sharks left the Windy City with two points despite a 14-shot stink bomb.
Are You Not Entertained?
– Pressure, pressure, pressure. It sums up the Hawks’ efforts on Tuesday night. It just wasn’t enough, as – surprise, surprise – the Shark goaltender made a handful of difficult stops and the defense kept the Hawks to the outside other times.
– Yes, it’s tough to lose on home ice, but if you’re looking for signs the Hawks are among the league’s best teams, look no further. The Hawks dominated the Sharks nearly every minute of the affair they just weren’t able to win. And, for those with a burning urge to talk about messages being sent from one team to another, consider Tuesday evening a singing telgram to the Sharks. Message delivered.
– About the only good thing San Jose can say following the game: their best offensive players made the best out of a scarce few opportunities. Each of their goals came in transition and involved a side-to-side pass that isolated a Shark with Huet. Each featured great players making great plays.
– Sticking with the Sharks, a season-and-a-half ago, the team lost its offensive defenseman, Brian Campbell, who signed with the Hawks. Just three days after the signing, the Sharks sent Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a first and a fouth to the Lightning for another play starter – Dan Boyle. Not so bad.
– Huet’s night wasn’t exactly stellar. How could it be with a save percentage on the wrong side of 80%? But, two of the three were of the one-on-one variety against all world players – Heatley and Thornton. On a better night, Huet stops Demers in the third and gives the Hawks a chance to tie it late.
– Two shifts into the game, I noticed an extra hop in Marian Hossa’s step. Fifty-six minutes later, Hossa had racked up a goal and an assist in the losing effort. Hossa has 12 points in 13 games, and hasn’t been at his best yet. The good news: if you’re ready for the Marian Hossa experience, I’d tune in for the next week or two. It’s coming.
– What the hell was Pat Foley doing in the penalty box? A second period shot (on Versus) of the box showed Foley there in all his glory. Must be nice.
– Scott Nichol is overrated – and he’s a fourth liner. His year as a Hawk six seasons ago serves as one of the organization’s screaming lowlights. Only in America (and occassionally in Canada).
– Next up, the Red Wings tomorrow night in Detroit. If the Hawks play like they did Tuesday, it should be a beating. As we’ve said so many times this season, though, the Wings will be heard from come spring time.
– The obvious extra step in Dustin Byfuglien’s early step was explained when it was revealed Team USA GM Brian Burke was in attendance. I still expect Buff to be on the team – just not on its power play point.
– Can we go back to Campbell and Seabrook on the first unit power play points now? Please?