CHICAGO – Even though more than 15 minutes remained in regulation when Chicago’s Cam Barker scored the tying goal, there was little doubt where the game was headed.
When playing each other this season, the Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche have taken absolutely no shortcuts.
“Right when we tied it up,” Chicago’s Patrick Sharp said, “I think everybody had a hunch it was going into overtime and a shootout.”
The teams have played three times this season and all have ended in shootouts. The Blackhawks won 3-2 Wednesday night when Sharp beat Craig Anderson in the third round.
“We finished them off a little earlier compared to the other games,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said, referring to the nine-and eight-round marathons between the teams earlier this season. “We prefer it like this, just keep it to three shooters.”
Anderson, a Chicago-area native who played three seasons for the Blackhawks, made 37 saves in regulation and overtime and turned aside Patrick Kane’s shootout attempt. But he was beaten by Toews in the first shootout round and then couldn’t stop Sharp’s backhander over his glove.
Sharp had been 4-for-17 in shootouts during his career and was scoreless in both attempts against Anderson in the first two meetings between the teams.
“Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Sharp said. “I thought I had better puck control this time. The other times, I was focusing more on the shot and not hanging onto that puck.”
The game wouldn’t have reached a shootout if not for Anderson’s stellar work, as the Avs were outshot 19-3 during the third period and overtime.
“They were down by a goal and came out flying in the third,” he said. “We did what we could to hold it off and managed to get a point. It’s always good to come back and play in front of your family sitting in the crowd.”
Marek Svatos scored in the shootout for the Avalanche, but Wojtek Wolski hit the post on his attempt and Darcy Tucker was stopped by Cristobal Huet. Wolski entered the game as the NHL shootout king, converting 17-of-29 (58.6 per cent), but he is 0-for-3 in the three games against Chicago.
“There’s nothing I can do about that,” Wolski said. “I made the same move that I’ve done before in the past and it works. This time I hit the post. He got lucky this time.”
Huet made 25 saves for the Blackhawks, who have won five consecutive home games. Since starting the season 10-1-2, the Avalanche are 2-3-1. Each club is in first place in its division and each is determined to finish high in the Western Conference standings.
“We’ve got two very young, good hockey teams,” Wolski said. “We’re probably going to battle it out all year.”
Colorado’s Kyle Cumiskey scored 9:44 into the game when he shot wide, chased the puck behind the net and flipped a centring pass that went in off Huet. Kane tied it at 15:20, wristing a shot from the left circle over Anderson’s glove-side shoulder.
Wolski scored his team-high ninth goal at 13:10 of the second to put the Avalanche ahead, but Barker responded at 4:56 of the third. Taking advantage of defenceman Kyle Quincey’s failed attempt to keep the puck in the Blackhawks’ end, Barker stickhandled all the way down the ice and scored over Anderson’s glove.
Colorado had a great chance to win in regulation, but Matt Duchene’s shot with about a minute to go hit the post behind Huet.
NOTES: Tucker was activated from the injured list after missing eight games with a concussion. … Colorado RW Milan Hejduk sat out with a sore back. … Former Blackhawks great Bobby Hull, whose son Brett joined him in the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, dropped the ceremonial first puck.