CHICAGO – Chicago’s Patrick Sharp was all alone, hanging back a bit in overtime and waiting for a chance the puck might come his way.
And when Los Angeles’ Brad Richardson made an errant pass in the centre of the rink, Dave Bolland picked it off and quickly sent it in Sharp’s direction.
From just outside the blue-line, Sharp took it to the net and beat Jonathan Quick 2:08 into overtime – his second goal of the game – to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory Wednesday night.
“I saw the bouncing puck there and the L.A. players flooded the zone,” Sharp said. “I felt if we could force a turnover, I’d get a chance to sneak in. Bolly made a great play.”
For Kings coach Terry Murray, whose team is trying to secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs, the final play was disappointing – there was no one back to check Sharp and the pass by Richardson was risky.
“You’ve got to stop and you’ve got some responsibilities away from the puck. Then the attempted pass is something that you’d like to not see,” Murray said.
“The backhand pass through the middle of the ice is a hard one to make. I know what his intentions are, I know they were good. But just on the other side of the checking part of it, we wanted to make sure one of our defencemen is back defending.”
But they weren’t and the Blackhawks got the victory, one that allowed them to tie San Jose for top spot in the West with 93 points.
“Seems like we’ve been tied with them 30 times this year,” Sharp said. “Why not shoot for first in the conference and first in the league? We want to build as the playoffs come on.”
Sharp opened the scoring for Chicago in the first period, Kris Versteeg added a goal, and Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots in his first start in four games.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown scored for the Kings, and Quick made 40 saves.
“I just kind of reacted to what he (Sharp) was doing. He made a good move and beat me there,” Quick said of the game-winner.
Kopitar got his 31st goal of the season when his wrist shot from the right circle on a power play eluded Niemi and gave the Kings a 2-1 lead in the second. It came less than two minutes after Brown tied it with a wraparound shot through Niemi’s legs.
Versteeg’s rebound goal through traffic in front of the net – less than two minutes after Kopitar’s score – tied it 2-2.
Niemi stopped a breakaway attempt by Michal Handzus early in the third and seconds later snuffed an attempt from close in by Wayne Simmonds.
“It’s a very difficult team to play against. There’s a lot of sorting out, a lot of reads you have to make,” Murray said of the Blackhawks. “At the end, we just didn’t make the right one.”
Chicago’s Adam Burish wasted little time in making an impact in his first game of the season following knee surgery. He took a pass behind the net and fed Sharp who whiffed and then scored on his second try for a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Seconds later Burish dropped the gloves with the Kings’ Rich Clune and the fight brought a rousing cheer from the crowd at the United Center.
Quick held off a Chicago power play in the first – 1:41 of it with the Blackhawks holding a two-man advantage – when Duncan Keith’s shot hit the post.
NOTES: It was the third meeting of the season between the teams and first since November. Chicago leads 2-1. Los Angeles won the previous meeting in a shootout. The teams face off again in eight days. … Burish tore the ACL in his right knee during a pre-season game at Minnesota on Sept. 20 and underwent surgery five days later. He was activated from the injured reserve list last weekend. … The Blackhawks honoured former star and Hall of Famer Denis Savard. Savard also coached the team for 147 games before he was fired four games into last season.