The Chicago Blackhawks’ top line came through against a top Western Conference rival.
Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg each had a goal and an assist, and the Blackhawks beat San Jose 4-3 on Sunday night to end Sharks’ eight-game streak with at least a point.
Dave Bolland and rookie Andrew Shaw also scored for Chicago, which improved to 3-0-2 in its last five. Shaw’s goal was his fourth in seven games since being recalled from the AHL.
Toews played at center and Stalberg on left wing on a line with right wing Patrick Kane. The speedy trio took a combined 17 shots and was the most visible on the ice Sunday.
”It was probably the best game we’ve had,” Stalberg said. ”We’ve got a little more confidence. … I don’t know if they had a shot against us on a shift, and we had chances every shift.”
The unit is clicking since being assembled by coach Joel Quenneville four games ago.
Stalberg has five goals in his last four games, Toews has two goals and three assists during that stretch and Kane – who has scored just once in his last 13 games – has had two assists.
”They had a great night,” Quenneville said. ”They were all going.”
Chicago rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Detroit on Saturday. Toews scored with under a minute left to send that game into the extra period.
On Sunday, the Blackhawks knocked off the hottest team in the West and handed the Sharks their first loss in regulation since Dec. 26. San Jose had won six of seven, and was 6-0-2 in its previous eight.
”Yesterday, we found our legs late in the game,” Toews said. ”Coming in tonight, all three of us were working.”
Joe Pavelski, Jamie McGinn and rookie Tommy Wingels scored for the Sharks.
Wingels’ goal late in the third – his first in the NHL – cut it to 4-3. Crawford and the Blackhawks then held on through a Sharks power play in the final 1:07, while Niemi was on the bench for an extra attacker.
And San Jose fell short in trying to steal a point.
”Steal would have been the word,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. ”We’re not overly flattered with the 4-3 score. It could have easily been a lot worse.
”Their (Chicago’s) big boys had the puck the whole night. They’re a tough enough group to playing against when you’re managing the puck properly, but when you’re turning it over as many times as we did.”
Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 21 saves.
Antti Niemi stopped 36 shots for the Sharks. Niemi, who backstopped the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup title in 2010, has started all seven games between these teams since joining the Sharks last season.
”The first and second star in my mind was Nemo (Niemi),” McLellan said. ”He obviously robbed them a number of times.”
Niemi made spectacular saves on Marian Hossa and Kane midway through the first, but he couldn’t hold off the Blackhawks late in the period when Bolland and Stalberg scored 1:38 apart.
Bolland opened the scoring with 1:59 left in the first. After taking Jimmy Hayes’ feed from behind the net, he beat Niemi with a shot from a sharp angle before Niemi could slide across the crease.
Stalberg made it 2-0 with 21 seconds remaining, skating down the slot and redirecting in Toews’ pinpoint feed from the right corner.
The Sharks replied with two quick goals early in the second to tie it when Pavelski and McGinn connected 26 seconds apart.
From traffic in front of the crease, Pavelski tipped in Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s drive from the point at 1:42. McGinn then skated to the net from the right corner and stuffed in a shot from the side of the net at 2:08.
Toews put Chicago back ahead 3-2 at 7:06 with his team-leading 24th goal after Niemi tried to play the puck behind the net. Stalberg beat Niemi to the puck and fed it to Patrick Kane at the left boards. Kane slipped a pass in front to Toews, who swept in a shot while Niemi was trying to get back into position.
Shaw made it 4-2 at 2:37 of the third when he followed through on his own rebound. Niemi stopped Marcus Kruger’s shot from the slot and got a piece of Shaw’s rebound, but Shaw buried the loose puck as it slid toward the goal line.
Wingels swept in a rebound of Dan Boyle’s shot with 4:57 left to cut San Jose’s deficit to 4-3.
NOTES: The Sharks were 10-1-4 since losing 1-0 at St. Louis on Dec. 10. … San Jose rookie C Andrew Desjardins sat out because of an undisclosed injury. He hasn’t played since being hit in the head by Columbus’ Dane Byers early in the second period of the Sharks’ 2-1 win on Saturday. … Chicago LW Patrick Sharp (fractured left wrist) missed his fourth game. … Blackhawks LW Daniel Carcillo is scheduled to have reconstructive knee surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season.