SAN JOSE, Calif. The Blackhawks were a much better team on Wednesday night. They were smarter, they were tougher and they were stingier.
Unfortunately for them, the opposing goaltender was just a little bit better.
Antti Niemi collected his first shutout of the season again his former team, as the Sharks edged the Blackhawks 1-0 at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks, missing Brent Seabrook for the fourth consecutive game and giving up 14 goals in their previous two games combined, were much better defensively.
For them, it was a start in the right direction.
Thats the standard for how we want to work, Jonathan Toews said. Were not happy with the result but were not going to let that hurt our confidence. We played the way we were supposed to play. Every guy was making predictable plays to the next guy. When you do that, team game flourishes.
Coach Joel Quenneville said shoring things up defensively being more responsible around the net, keeping quality chances down was the focal point.
Thats the way we wanted to play going into that game: play tight defensively, make sure the pucks ahead of us, he said. I thought we checked well and they got the fortunate bounce and scoring first was the difference. But if we play like that well find a way to get points.
The Blackhawks stronger defensive game was evident from the start. The Sharks werent getting much time in the Hawks zone, and when they did they didnt stay there long. The Sharks had just 11 shots in the first two periods combined.
The Sharks lone score came when Jason Demers power-play goal deflected off Toews and past Corey Crawford, who stopped 20 of 21.
It was a weird bounce, Crawford said. I thought it was going to stay on the ice but it just kind of jumped up.
Only problem was the Blackhawks couldnt get anything on the other end despite tons of time in the Sharks zone and 34 shots on goal. Credit Niemi for that frustration, as the netminder was stoic against his former team. Niemi came up big throughout the night, from his stop on Bryan Bickells breakaway early to denying Toews late.
He made big saves back there; we had a couple good opportunities to put a few by him. Im sure that was a big win for him, said Patrick Sharp. Weve had success against him in the past and well see him again in the future. Overall, it was just two good teams playing a pretty good 60 minutes on both sides.
The Blackhawks certainly arent happy that they lost their third in a row. They werent happy they couldnt get one past their former teammate. But they regained their defensive game. If they keep that better game, it will lead to better results.
Obviously you want a couple of points from this game. But when we we lose games like this we can take those, said Niklas Hjalmarsson. Its nothing like we lost in Edmonton and Calgary. At least today we had a good effort. If we keep playing like this well get points.
Duncan Keith played a game-high 29:18, firing six shots on goal and blocking three shots.
Patrick Kane had a team-high seven shots on Niemi.
Michael Frolik returned to action after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury. He played just over 11 minutes.