CALGARY – Patrick Sharp’s fifth short-handed goal of the season 32 seconds into the third period was the game-winner Thursday, handing the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
Controlling the puck in the Chicago end, a pass back to the blue-line skipped over the stick of Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin enabling Sharp to race the other direction, make a quick move to his forehand and tuck his 11th goal of the season behind Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Sharp’s five short-handed tallies is equal to what Ottawa – the NHL’s next best team – has in that category. Chicago is the runaway league-leader with 10.
The other goal for Chicago (12-8-1) also came while Chicago was playing a man short and was the first career goal for Jacob Dowell, who was making his NHL debut.
The Blackhawks are 5-1-1 in their last seven games and are 2-1-1 four games into a six-game road trip, which continues Saturday night in Edmonton.
Jarome Iginla scored the lone goal for Calgary (9-10-3), which had only given up one short-handed goal in its first 21 games. The Flames are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games.
Calgary pressed for much of the third period outshooting Chicago 15-2 in the final 20 minutes, but they couldn’t get the tying goal past Nikolai Khabibulin, who finished the night with 30 saves.
Kiprusoff had 12 stops for the Flames.
Chicago took a 1-0 lead at 5:29 of the second on a bizarre play. As Calgary gained the Chicago zone, the puck was dropped back towards Alex Tanguay at the blue-line. However, in a scene of confusion, Tanguay purposely let the puck slide right through his legs apparently expecting someone to be behind him. Instead, the puck slid to centre where it was scooped by Dowell, who broke in alone on Kiprusoff and scored on a deke to his forehand.
Dowell, 22, from Eau Claire, Wis., was recalled on Monday from Rockford (AHL) along with Kris Versteeg to fill in for injuried forwards Rene Bourque (broken thumb) and Jason Williams (groin).
On Calgary’s next power play after they fell behind 1-0, coach Mike Keenan, who often deploys four forwards and just one defenceman on the power play, opted to go with two forwards and three defencemen. The unusual tactic paid off with Dion Phaneuf centring the puck from behind the net to an uncovered Iginla in the slot, and the Flames captain one-timed in his 13th of the season tying it at 12:17 of the second.
Calgary would take the same approach in its next power play, but this time with the same defensive trio of Phaneuf, Aucoin, and Anders Eriksson on the ice, it resulted in Sharp’s go-ahead goal.
Neither team could score in the opening period with the best chances for each team ricocheting off the goal post.
Notes – Iginla played his 800th career game. He’s second on the Flames all-time list behind Al MacInnis (803)… Dustin Boyd made his season debut after being recalled from Quad City (AHL). It’s his second NHL stint as the 21-year-old got into 13 games (two goals, two assists) last year… Forward Kris Versteeg also made his Blackhawk debut after being recalled at the same time as Jacob Dowell… One of the forward openings was the result of Rene Bourque’s broken thumb suffered last Saturday, which will sideline him for 4-6 weeks… Calgary’s Marcus Nilson (concussion) missed his second game… Six of the Blackhawks nine short-handed goals have come on the road.