Updated: 9:52 p.m.
For the first 40 minutes the Blackhawks forgot the cardinal rule in playing former goaltender Antti Niemi: shoot at him often, and get traffic in front of him.
They finally did it in the final 25 minutes. And guess what the outcome was.
Andrew Brunette deflected the tying goal with 66 seconds left in regulation, and Patrick Sharp scored on the doorstep with 33.2 seconds remaining in overtime as the Blackhawks came back to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Sunday night. It was the Blackhawks second straight victory and fourth in their last five games; and Sundays victory came thanks to those greasy, hard-working goals.
You look at all the goals, theres somebody at the net, coach Joel Quenneville said. We didnt have any pace first 40 minutes. They dictated the game and we had more urgency and zone time in the third. You have to score with traffic. If (Niemi) sees pucks, hes very effective.
The Blackhawks languished in the first 40 minutes against the Sharks, who despite playing Saturday night in St. Louis looked fresher and were active offensively. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, managed just 13 shots in the first two periods. Niemi did have his brilliant stops, including one on Viktor Stalberg early and a stunner against Marian Hossa on a later power play.
And if not for another great night by Ray Emery, the Blackhawks wouldnt have even been within one goal entering the third period. But thanks to his stopping 35 of 37 shots 33 of those shots coming in the first two periods the Blackhawks had a chance; and he had his 100th victory of his career.
Emery said the momentum swing was evident in the third, when the Blackhawks outshot San Jose 16-3.
You could kind of feel it on the bench. We thought we had a pretty good chance to score in there, Emery said. The way we played the whole period we had a lot of chances and it felt like we were about to score at any time.
The equalizer came from Brunette, who, parked in front of Niemi, deflected Hossas shot past him to send it to overtime. And then it was Sharp, whose newborn daughter and wife came home from the hospital earlier in the day, shoving a Hossa rebound past Niemi for his second game-winning goal in as many contests.
Its easy to kind of turn things off when you come to the rink, but I thought I was a space cadet for the whole game and then I was able to bounce one in there for the winner, so I got lucky, Sharp said. Ill be much better on Wednesday.
Taking shots and getting traffic. Theyre two pretty good recipes for success against any goaltender.
Its all because you have someone in front of the net and youre shooting pucks with traffic, Quenneville said. Sometimes it doesnt have to be pretty.
Marian Hossa wasnt too happy when San Jose left wing Ryane Clowe started hitting him from behind at the end of regulation on Sunday. Hossa and defenseman Colin White where shoving each other when Clowe came in.
I just tried to shoot the last couple of seconds, (White) gave me a couple of whacks so I returned them and somebody kept hitting me from behind, Hossa said. You try to not pay attention to it but the hits keep coming. I just turned around and told him, Dont be a coward, hitting from behind."
Hossa would set up the game-winner, but he said he put the late-regulation fracas out of his mind.
I think that tying goal gave us lots of energy and I didnt care what happened at the end, he said. We had more jump the last few minutes. It was a great job by Sharpie staying in the crease to get the winning goal.