By the time Andrew Desjardins’ match penalty was rescinded by the NHL, it was too late to help the San Jose Sharks.
Patrick Kane scored the tiebreaking goal for Chicago on what would have been a San Jose power play and then added an empty-netter to seal the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory Tuesday night in a matchup of the NHL’s top two teams.
The game turned midway through the second period after Desjardins flattened former Shark Jamal Mayers with a hard check that was called a hit to the head on the ice even though replays showed the contact was with the shoulder. It resulted in a major penalty and ejection for Desjardins.
”It was a terrible call,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. ”I don’t know if we’re going to come back or not but at that point we’re still in the game and we should have been on a 4-minute power play. That’s a good hockey hit, but the linesman called it. No one else saw it.”
Duncan Keith took exception to the hit and started a fight with Desjardins, getting two additional minor penalties for instigating a fight while wearing a facemask. But instead of a 4-minute power play for San Jose, there were 4 minutes of 4-on-4 play followed by a 1-minute power play for Chicago.
”The way the linesman saw it on the ice, he was convinced it was a major penalty. Unfortunately, he was wrong,” supervisor of officials Mick McGeough told a pool reporter. ”It’s been overruled, taken care of by the league and Brendan Shanahan and the safety committee, and there are no more issues right now.”
But that decision came too late to help the Sharks. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Jonathan Toews picked Douglas Murray’s pocket near the net and fed Kane for a goal that gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead heading into the third.
”He picked it from Murray and just fed me,” Kane said. ”I tried to get it on net. I think it hit the defenseman’s stick and went to the other side. Lucky break on that one but a great play by Jonny.”
Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger also scored for the Blackhawks, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to remain the only NHL team yet to lose a game in regulation this season – despite playing eight of 10 on the road. Corey Crawford made 30 saves.
”It’s been a great start, and we’re happy with everything,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We like the balance. The four-line rotation’s been great. Tough schedule as well, in some tough buildings. Finding a way to win has been a good sign for us. We’re having fun right now.”
Joe Pavelski, Tommy Wingels and Michal Handzus scored for the Sharks, who have lost three straight following a franchise-record seven-game winning streak to open the season. Antti Niemi made 26 saves.
The biggest difference for the Sharks during this recent slide has been the power play. San Jose failed to convert on all three chances against Chicago and has one power-play goal in its last 21 opportunities after scoring 12 power-play goals in the first five games.
”We need more shots and to get more traffic,” captain Joe Thornton said. ”We’re trying for the pretty shots, but we need to get back to what we were doing before.”
The most painful missed opportunity for the Sharks came early in the third period when they had a chance to tie the game. Niemi, however, was called for delay of game just 11 seconds after Nick Leddy was sent off for holding.
Both teams came into the game playing tight defense and struggling to score in recent games. That all changed in a wide-open first period that featured three goals for each team, including the first of the season for four players.
San Jose got out to quick a 2-0 lead on goals by Pavelski and Wingels before a dizzying 89-second stretch that featured four goals, including three by Chicago. The Blackhawks had scored three goals in a stretch of more than 198 minutes of game action before Saad started the frenzy by slamming a pass from Brent Seabrook at the side of the net 10:08 into the first for his first goal of the season.
Handzus answered with his first 39 seconds later when he beat Crawford to the short side off a pass in transition from Wingels. But there was no time to celebrate that as the Blackhawks took 8 seconds off the ensuing faceoff to get the goal from Shaw off a pass from behind the net by Bryan Bickell.
Kruger capped the spree at the 11:37 mark when Justin Braun’s clearing attempt hit Wingels’ skate and went right to Kruger, who knocked in his first goal of the season.
”It was a pretty crazy first period,” Kane said. ”Both teams beared down after that and it was one goal that decided it.”
Notes: The Sharks have killed 31 consecutive penalties over the past seven games. … The Blackhawks have allowed only two goals in 39 short-handed chances. … Saad’s goal was his first in 11 career games. … San Jose F James Sheppard assisted on Wingels’ goal for his first NHL point since getting an assist on March 26, 2010, for Minnesota.