SAN JOSE, Calif. – A big win in San Jose means a pleasant day off in Las Vegas.
The Chicago Blackhawks might feel as if they hit the jackpot after beating the Sharks 4-2 on Saturday night, their first win in San Jose in nearly six years. “We can be happy about this win and celebrate it the next few days,” Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews said after scoring twice. “We played a solid game from start to finish and now it’s time to take our game to another level.”
Kris Versteeg and Duncan Keith also scored to help the Blackhawks win for the second time in five games. Nikolai Khabibulin made 33 saves for his second straight win.
Versteeg wasn’t sure he could answer a question about his personal itinerary in Las Vegas, where the team plans to watch the Super Bowl and “hang out, enjoy it.”
Winger Patrick Sharp was a little more forthcoming, saying he was going to “watch some football and go to the spa.”
Christian Ehrhoff and Milan Michalek scored for the Sharks, who lost for the second time in 27 home games and had a 13-game unbeaten streak over Chicago stopped. Evgeni Nabokov’s franchise-record scoreless streak ended at 170:58 on Toews’ goal 48 seconds into the game.
“The tempo of the game was in their favour and special teams were in their favour,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re going to put our work boots back on and do a lot of skating.”
Chicago, coming off a 5-2 loss in Los Angeles on Thursday night, played crisp, sharp hockey from the drop of the puck.
“That’s the best team in the league and it was a great start for us,” Chicago defender Brent Seabrook said. “We got one right off the bat and carried it through.”
The Blackhawks were looking for a quick start against one of the top teams in the NHL. Despite owning the fourth best record in the Western Conference, Chicago was winless in six games against division leaders Detroit and San Jose.
“It was a huge game for us,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We played with a lot of enthusiasm, we were on the puck and had good speed. All aspects of our game was rock solid.”
The Blackhawks won the special-teams battle, scoring twice on power plays and adding a short-handed goal. They even had a goal taken away because of a high-sticking call.
“That was a break for us, but we surely didn’t take advantage of it,” McLellan said.
Chicago did not let Ehrhoff’s tying goal midway through the first period affect its play. Continually on the attack, something the Sharks are noted for, the Blackhawks took the lead on a short-handed goal in the second period when Dave Bolland picked up a bad pass from Ehrhoff and skated hard toward the net. Bolland was tripped from behind, but got a slow shot off that skipped off Nabokov’s pads onto Versteeg’s stick.
Toews added his second goal on a power play. Keith made it 4-1 before Michalek answered.
Notes: Bolland’s goal midway through the first period was negated when Versteeg was called for high-sticking (though replays clearly showed Patrick Kane to be the offender) moments before. … The Blackhawks last won in San Jose on March 17, 2003. … Nabokov’s franchise-record scoreless streak pales in the face of the NHL record, held by Sharks’ teammate Brian Boucher’s 332:01 streak when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003-04.