CHICAGO – Getting forward Patrick Sharp back in the lineup and getting a lead helped the Chicago Blackhawks snap their longest winless streak of the season.
Sharp and Martin Havlat each scored two goals, Nikolai Khabibulin made 14 saves, and Chicago defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on Sunday to end an 0-3-2 slump.
Sharp skated in his first game after missing 16 with a left knee injury. After opening the scoring during a power play midway through the first period, Sharp helped set up Havlat’s first goal early in the second to put Chicago ahead 2-0.
“I just wanted to come in and play a strong game; not necessarily worry about scoring goals and making plays, but just play hard and with energy,” Sharp said. “Luckily a couple of pucks went in.”
“It was great to have him (Sharp) there,” Havlat added. “His first goal was a beautiful shot. You can see we create more offence with him in the lineup. We need him.”
The Blackhawks, 4-7-3 in their past 14, opened the scoring for only the second time in their past nine games.
“The biggest thing is we didn’t give up any early goals,” Chicago’s Duncan Keith said. “It’s tough when you fight for the momentum and then give up an easy goal. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Sunday’s victory moved the Blackhawks into fourth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of idle Vancouver.
“We needed a win badly,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t want to say a number, but I still think our motivation is to finish fourth in our conference.”
Khabibulin lost a bid for his second shutout this season and 40th of his career when the Kings’ Drew Doughty scored a power-play goal with 3:06 left in the third.
Khabibulin earned his first win since a 3-1 victory in Atlanta on Feb. 11, when he suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for a month. Khabibulin, who was activated from injured reserve on March 11, has started four of Chicago’s past five games.
“It was our best defensive game in some time,” Quenneville said. “Khabby was solid and very confident in his positioning. He was good the whole game long and handled the puck well.”
Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick made 28 saves as Chicago dominated for most of the game and outshot the Kings 32-15.
“Quick was really good for us,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “In a situation like this, when you’ve got a lot of desperation basically from both sides, Chicago played well. They beat us to pucks.
“We didn’t generate a lot because they we’re good.”
The Kings, playing the third game of a six-game road trip, saw their playoff hopes dwindle further. Los Angeles is seven points behind eighth-place Nashville in the Western Conference and the post-season cutoff with 10 games remaining.
Los Angeles lost its second straight and is 1-4-1 in its past six.
On Sunday, Quick held the Kings in the game. Doughty’s goal cut it to 2-1 before Sharp and Havlat each scored empty-net goals in the final 1:06.
“We played well enough to get by and kept it a close game,” Quick said. “We almost pulled off something when we got it to within one goal. A couple of empty-net goals later and the game was over.”
Chicago had a 5:35 power play including a 25-second 5-on-3 early in the first set up by a double-minor to Los Angeles’ Justin Williams and a minor to Sean O’Donnell.
Sharp opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 9:46 and with 54 seconds left in the long advantage. He beat Quick on the glove side with a rising shot from low edge of the left circle to complete a 2-on-1 break.
Havlat made it 2-0 at 4:21 of the second when he completed a give-and-go with Sharp with a one-timer from the right edge of the crease. Havlat dished to Sharp in the right circle; Sharp then slid a pass back to Havlat after Havlat cut across the crease.
Doughty scored a power-play goal on a screened shot from the right wing with 3:06 left in regulation to cut it to 2-1.
Sharp banked a shot into an empty net with 1:06 remaining to make it 3-1. Havlat added empty-net goal with 18 seconds left to complete the scoring.
Notes: Sharp was leading the team in goal scoring with 23 when he was injured on Feb. 13 in the opening minute of a home game against St. Louis. … Blackhawks LW Ben Eager sat out the first game of a three-game suspension. Eager was suspended elbowing Edmonton’s Liam Reddox in the head in the third period of Chicago’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Oilers. Eager didn’t receive a penalty on the play, however. … Chicago D Cam Barker sat out with an undisclosed injury. D Jordan Hendry was recalled from Rockford of the AHL and replaced Barker on Sunday. … Los Angeles D Denis Gauthier missed his second game with an upper-body injury.