Sharks' comeback falls short in 4-3 loss to Blackhawks

January 16, 2012, 2:34 am
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CHICAGO The Blackhawks top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg apparently didnt get the memo regarding how tight the Sharks' defense had been of late.That trio teamed up for five points, including a goal by Toews that put Chicago ahead to stay in the second period, in a 4-3 Blackhawks victory over the Sharks on Sunday night at the United Center.Oh, and they combined for no less than 17 shots on goal as the Blackhawks outshot San Jose for the game, 40-24.Just about every time they were on the ice, if they werent creating a scoring chance right away, they were holding onto the puck waiting for something to open up.

They are quick, smart players, said their former teammate, Antti Niemi. They can shoot or pass, so you have to be ready for anything.Too much, hows that? Todd McLellan said, when asked what he saw from Toews, Kane and Stalberg. Their big boys had the puck the whole night. They are a tough enough group to play against when youre managing the puck properly, but when you turn it over as many times as we didI dont know if the puck had a Blackhawk logo on it, we thought we had to give it back to them.The Blackhawks had 16 takeaways half by the top line.Toews go-ahead goal started with a misplay by Niemi. The Sharks goalie went behind the net to play the puck, but instead it ended up in the corner on Kanes stick. Kane threw it to the front of the net and Toews got the tip of his stick on it to redirect the puck into the open net before Niemi could recover at 7:06 of the second period. That made it 3-2, Chicago.Just a quick play. Couldnt get back, Niemi said.The goal was especially demoralizing in that the Sharks had erased a 2-0 deficit to tie the game early in the second on goals from Joe Pavelski and Jamie McGinn. Pavelski tipped in a wrister towards the net from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 1:42, and McGinn wrapped the puck around and was able to beat Corey Crawford on a goal that Crawford should have stopped just 26 seconds later.I think I just surprised him going far side. I just jammed it in the net, said McGinn.The Sharks had been outplayed to that point and were fortunate to be at 2-2. That was the moment they needed to seize momentum.It didnt happen.Instead, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called a timeout and saw his club control play for just about the rest of the period, while taking back the lead in the process. In fact, the Sharks went over 10 minutes in the second without a single shot.We had full momentum after making it 2-2. Its a good call by their coach to call time out and settle things down, but we had to take the opportunity and pounce on them right away, McGinn said. I didnt think we did that, and they got the next goal and that was key.McLellan said: We established ourselves to get back in the game, and then we gave it right back to them. It was an uphill battle from there that we werent coming back on.Although San Joses four-game road trip ended with a thud, it was just their second loss in regulation in the last 16 games (10-2-4) and ended a streak of seven games with at least a point in the standings.Weve been playing well, Joe Thornton said. Well put this behind us, and it was a good road trip.The Sharks even had a great chance to steal a point in the end. Andrew Shaw gave Chicago a two-goal cushion early in the third to make it 4-2, but Tommy Wingels first career NHL goal with less than five minutes left brought the Sharks back to within one.Niklas Hjalmarsson was called for hooking with 1:07 left in regulation, giving the Sharks a 6-on-4 advantage with Niemi pulled for an extra attacker. They couldnt capitalize, though, and finished 0-for-3 on the power play.The Blackhawks stormed out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals late in the first.Dave Bolland got it started, firing home a wrist shot past Niemi on a feed from behind the net. Niemi had trouble tracking the play behind him, giving Bolland just enough daylight to get his 13th of the season at 18:01.Chicagos top line struck for the first of its two goals with less than 20 seconds left in the period. Stalberg caught Brent Burns flat-footed in the slot and directed in a Toews pass to give the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.You come back into your zone and you stare at the puck against this team, youre in trouble, McLellan said. The puck-carrier seldom does the damage. Its who hes dishing it off to, and we just stared at the puck, and they had a number of chances off of it.Niemi finished with 36 saves in suffering his eighth defeat, but had perhaps his best stop of the year midway through the first. He lunged across the crease to rob Kane from firing it into an open net on a nice feed through the slot by Toews, snagging it with his glove and freezing play.It comes so quick that youre almost not sure if youre going to make the save, Niemi said. You just reach and realize its in the glove. It felt great.Kane, who has just two goals in his last 17 games, looked dumbfounded that the puck didnt hit the back of the net.Crawford finished with 21 saves to record the win, as Chicago has won two of three from the Sharks. They meet for the fourth and final time this regular season on Feb. 10 at HP Pavilion.The Sharks host Calgary on Tuesday.Odds and ends: The Blackhawks won 58 percent of faceoffs (33-24). Brad Winchester fought for the second time in as many nights, taking on Sean ODonnell in the first period. Ryane Clowe removed the cage he had been wearing the past two games. Did the training staff agree to let him do that? No, not really, he said. The Blackhawks had just one power play, which they did not score on. Torrey Mitchell had two assists.