Highlights: Sharks end road trip in Chicago with ugly loss
The Sharks finished 3-1-1 on the five-game road trip, losing 5-1 in Chicago on Sunday evening. (AP IMAGES)
CHICAGO – What could have been an outstanding road trip turned out to be merely a pretty good one.
The Sharks concluded their crisscross around the Western Conference with a thud, losing 5-1 to Chicago at United Center on Sunday night, and finishing 3-1-1 on the five-game trek.
Patrick Sharp had two goals and an assist, including a penalty shot goal late in regulation, to lead the Central Division-leading Blackhawks.
The Sharks trailed just 2-1 entering the third period, and nearly tied it in the opening seconds of the final frame, but Dan Boyle lost control of the puck while briefly looking at an open net.
Chicago took advantage of the missed opportunity, when Jonathan Toews tucked in his own rebound to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead at 3:39 of the third.
Versteeg iced the game for Chicago with four minutes and 50 seconds remaining. Antti Niemi stopped Brandon Saad on a breakaway, but Saad stayed with it to feed Versteeg for a slam-dunk to make it 4-1.
Sharp, who was harassed from behind by Marc-Edouard Vlasic late in the game, converted high over Niemi on a penalty shot with 1:11 remaining to cap the scoring and give the Sharks their most convincing loss of the season.
San Jose’s three-game winning streak was snapped, as it suffered just its third regulation defeat (13-3-5).
The Blackhawks opened the scoring with the only goal in the first period. Chicago took advantage of some neutral zone miscommunication as Patrick Kane brought the puck into the offensive zone. Kane’s attempt hit Scott Hannan and deflected to Brandon Pirri, who deposited his sixth goal at 16:34.
The Sharks tied it in the second. Joe Pavelski’s sneaky wrist shot from the high slot at first looked like it was gloved by Corey Crawford, but the puck squeaked out of his glove and trickled past the goal line at 8:16. It didn’t take long for the Hawks to respond, though. On a two-on-two, Sharp floated into the circle behind Justin Braun and one-timed a pass from Marcus Kruger past Niemi at 12:08.
The highlight of the first period for San Jose was a pair of big hits from Joe Thornton and Vlasic. The Sharks’ captain sent Nick Leddy flying with a hard shoulder along the boards with 8:45 to go, and Vlasic creamed Kruger in front of the player bench in the closing seconds.
Pavelski has a five-game point streak (2g, 3a). Joe Thornton’s seven-game point streak came to an end.
The Sharks and Blackhawks meet twice more, on Jan. 5 in Chicago and Feb. 1 at SAP Center.
Special teams didn’t play a role, as the Sharks were 0-for-2 and Chicago 0-for-1.
The Blackhawks entered the game with the league’s second-worst penalty kill, but San Jose was unable to capitalize on Brandon Bollig’s first period roughing minor and an early second period too many men penalty.
Niemi returned to the net after it was Alex Stalock who recorded the win in Edmonton on Friday. The former Blackhawks goalie fell to 0-5-1 in his last six games at United Center, and 1-5-1 against his former team in his last seven starts. He’s 10-3-5 on the season.
Crawford, playing in his 19th game out of 22 for Chicago, made 23 saves. His 13 wins is tied for the NHL lead.
Marty Havlat returned to the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Friday. Havlat skated on the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Matt Nieto, and was also a part of the second power play unit.
Chicago was without forward Marian Hossa for the second straight game. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who was hurt on Saturday in Nashville, was placed on injured reserve before the game.
The Sharks return home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 21 to kick off a five-game homestand that includes games against New Jersey, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Anaheim.
A four-game road trip begins on Dec. 3 in Toronto.