A much-needed offensive outburst provided a sense of relief for the Chicago Blackhawks – right up until they received news that one of their top contributors will miss an extended period.
Chicago begins a long stretch without Patrick Sharp on Friday night as it looks to deal the visiting Washington Capitals a sixth straight defeat.
The Blackhawks (7-5-1) lead the NHL in shots on goal by a wide margin, but their 6.49 shooting percentage ranks among the worst in the league. They were held to fewer than three goals six times during a 2-5-0 stretch before busting out of their slump with a 5-0 victory at Montreal on Tuesday.
Jonathan Toews scored the 200th goal of his career and added an assist. Kris Versteeg, Brad Richards, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane also scored.
”There’s nothing that’s been ailing us,” said Corey Crawford, who made 28 saves for his 11th career shutout. ”We’ve been playing good hockey and creating chances. We just weren’t getting the bounces."
Putting a damper on the victory, though, was Sharp being helped off the ice in the third period after taking a legal hit into the boards. Coach Joel Quenneville told the team’s official Twitter account that Sharp, tied for second on the club with nine points, will be out three to four weeks.
"It’s never easy, but we’ve been through it before," Toews said. "It’s unfortunate. He’s always a big part of our offense and he’s been really great in getting shots off and creating on the power play.
"In a way (it’s) an opportunity for some other guys to get more ice time, and I think guys will try and step in and make up for that as much as they can. But as a team we have to be prepared to fill that void."
Peter Regin has been recalled from the AHL to replace Sharp, forcing Quenneville to again tinker with his line combinations. Toews fed Kane on his highlight-reel goal against Montreal in a rare opportunity to play together at even strength.
They skated together again, along with Ben Smith, on the top line during Thursday’s practice.
"They make some nice plays together, and I think they were probably excited once they got back together and it worked out," defenseman Duncan Keith said of Toews and Kane.
While the Blackhawks have had trouble putting pucks in the net, the Capitals (4-5-3) have had issues keeping them out of their own. They’ve allowed at least four goals each time during an 0-4-1 stretch, falling 4-3 in overtime to Calgary on Tuesday.
"We’re in the process of building a team, and we’re going to go through some rough patches," coach Barry Trotz said. "How we react during those rough patches will say a lot about us. (If) we stay with it we’ll get stronger and on the other end we’ll be a lot better for it."
Alex Ovechkin had two assists to give him 827 career points, breaking Peter Bondra’s team record. His turnover in overtime led the Flames’ winning goal, though.
Braden Holtby suffered his third straight loss against Calgary, and it’s unclear if he or Justin Peters will be in goal with the Capitals hosting Carolina on Saturday.
Crawford, whose 1.53 goals-against average is among the best in the league, was pulled after two periods of a 4-0 loss to Washington on April 11 as the clubs split last season’s series.
Trotz said center Brooks Laich could play after missing the last seven with a shoulder injury.