NEWARK, N.J. – Patrick Sharp is on one of those streaks. It seems almost every time he shoots, the puck ends up in the net.
Sharp had his second hat trick in five games and the Chicago Blackhawks avoided a rare second straight loss with a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
The 32-year-old Sharp has 14 goals and seven assists in his last 13 games. He has 25 goals in 44 games this season, tied for the team lead with Patrick Kane.
“I don’t know numbers-wise,” Sharp said when asked if he has ever had a run like this. “I think I’ve felt like this a few times in my career. It’s the result of the good players I’m out there with making good plays, and all the hard work you put in as an individual. It’s a good run for our team, it’s a good run for me, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Sharp helped Chicago build a 4-1 lead, combining with Kane and Marian Hossa to score in a span of 4:04 early in the third period to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead. When the Devils narrowed the margin to a goal with 6:23 to play, Sharp iced the game, breaking in on Martin Brodeur with 1:28 to play and easily beating the NHL’s winningest goaltender for his fourth career hat trick.
“It’s fun to play against a guy like Marty Brodeur, arguably the best goaltender of all-time,” said Sharp, who only had six goals in last year’s lockout-shortened season that ended with Chicago winning the Stanley Cup. “You see guys like that on the ice, Jaromir Jagr as well, it’s crazy to line up against those guys.”
Duncan Keith had three assists and fellow defenceman Brent Seabrook two in the four-goal third period against Brodeur, who faced 24 shots.
“They have three lines that can get you and their fourth line doesn’t hurt them ever, either,” Brodeur said. “We played them well, we were right there, and then they kind of took over. They’re a good team and they showed it. That’s what good teams do.”
Marek Zidlicky scored twice and fellow defenceman Andy Greene once for New Jersey, which lost in regulation for only the second time in nine games (5-2-2). Both defeats have come against the Blackhawks, who lost in overtime to the Islanders on Thursday.
“We played well for the first 40, then we hit the pause button,” Devils forward Ryan Carter said. “Against a team like that, you cannot do that. They can score at any time, and they pretty much did.”
Antti Raanta made 24 saves for Chicago, which is 11-1-3 against Eastern Conference opponents.
Kane broke a 1-all tie with a great effort and some luck 90 seconds into the third period. Skating down the right boards after taking a pass from Seabrook, Kane centred a pass toward Brandon Saad in front of the net. The puck deflected off Zidlicky’s stake and past Brodeur for his 24th goal.
Sharp, who opened the scoring, connected 74 seconds later with a great shot from low in the left circle that beat Brodeur over the shoulder. Seabrook set it up with a cross-ice pass from the right point.
“He has that eye of the tiger,” Raanta said of Sharp. “You can see it in the practice. He is trying to score every chance he has. When you do that in the practice it usually happens when you get the chances in the game.”
Hossa capped the outburst with a shot from between the circles over Brodeur’s shoulder after taking a pass from Jonathan Toews, who also had two assists. That gave Chicago a 4-1 lead, but the Devils didn’t quit.
Zidlicky made the game close again by scoring twice in a little more than 6 minutes, with the second coming on a power play with just over 6 minutes to play.
In their Dec. 23 meeting, the Blackhawks outshot the Devils 37-12 in a 5-2 win.
It was a totally different game this time. It was competitive for two periods, and the best players on the ice were Brodeur and Raanta, who both stopped several good chances in close.
After a scoreless opening period, Sharp gave the Blackhawks the lead. Toews set it up, taking the puck off Mark Fayne’s stick and finding Sharp between the circles at 1:34. It came seconds after Brodeur had stopped him in close.
New Jersey needed 43 seconds to tie the game. Steve Bernier started a counterattack in the Devils’ zone with a pass to Stephen Gionta. He carried the puck into the Chicago end and lifted a pass to Greene, who slid the puck between Raanta’s pads.
NOTES: Devils F Mike Sislo made his NHL debut after being called up from Albany (AHL) to replace Mattias Tedenby, who was waived earlier in the day. … Carter returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with a leg injury. … Sharp also hit the post in the first period on a power play. … Devils F Patrik Elias missed the game with general soreness.