Hawks win battle of NHL's best at the Shark Tank

Quenneville: I like the way the guys battled back

Hawks win battle of NHL's best at the Shark Tank
February 6, 2013, 1:00 am
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SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Blackhawks just figured it was a matter of time before Brandon Saad notched his first goal.

The rookie had been everywhere on the ice lately, charging the net, pushing for that first goal. And on Tuesday, he got it.

Saad scored his first career NHL goal, and the Blackhawks scored three more in a span of 1:29 as they came back to beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 at HP Pavilion. The Blackhawks, who improved to 8-0-2, remain atop the Western Conference and now have a three-point lead over second-place San Jose.

It was a strange evening, as the Blackhawks got down 2-0 to start and looked rattled against the quick-starting Sharks. But then Saad broke through, ending his personal scoring drought and unwittingly beginning a scoring barrage between the two teams. The Sharks and Blackhawks tallied four goals total in 89 seconds, and the Blackhawks had three of them. Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger also scored in that time frame.

“It was just one of those periods when everything was being shot,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s not the start we wanted against the fastest starting team in the league. Getting the response was important. But the guys battled, stuck together and improved as the team progressed.”

And Saad got that goal he’d been working so hard to collect.

“It feels real good,” Saad said. “I had my chances throughout the season and it just finally happened tonight. It’s pretty exciting.”

Patrick Kane scored the game-winner, off a Jonathan Toews takeaway and pass. Kane also added the empty netter with 1:12 remaining in regulation. Corey Crawford stopped 30 of 33 for the victory. Kane said it was good to see Saad get rewarded.

“It was a long time coming for him,” Kane said. “He played great again tonight. He’s fast and gets a lot of chances, especially playing with Johnny and (Marian Hossa). He’s been a great addition and I’m sure we’ll see many more from him. Everyone in here’s happy for him.”

Quenneville echoed that sentiment.

“He does so many things besides the production. His play’s been just the way you want it to be,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully he breaks out because he compliments the other two guys and they compliment him, and it’s been a real big line for us.”

And with it being Blackhawks-Sharks, there was the usual physical play. Andrew Desjardins knocked Jamal Mayers down in the second period, sending the veteran forward sprawling on the ice. Duncan Keith went after Desjardins, and both were assessed several penalties. Keith was able to return in the third period. Desjardins, who was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head, did not.

“We’re trying to get that out of our game, and unfortunately it happened. That’s my opinion; I don’t believe the puck was there yet. You make a decision to go for a piece of a guy’s body, happened to be my head,” said Mayers, who appreciated Keith’s reaction.

“We’re a team in here; we stick together,” he said. “Duncs jumped in there right away and I certainly appreciated that.”

The Blackhawks have been supporting each other throughout this early season, especially with scoring and defense. That was evident again on Tuesday, as they responded after going down 2-0 and Quenneville called a time out. Crawford got solid again – Michal Handzus’ goal against him wasn’t a good one to give up. Third- and fourth-liners Shaw and Kruger scored. And the Blackhawks found a way to pull out a win against the one team that may have been hotter than them.

“It’s a good start. Hopefully we can continue it,” Kane said. “I think we can even play better, so that’s the exciting part.”