Blackhawks rebound with 5-1 victory over Sharks
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter November 17, 2013 8:32PM
Updated: November 17, 2013 9:32PM
There was no ranting and raving and table-flipping from Joel Quenneville following the Blackhawks’ miserable effort in Saturday night’s loss to the Nashville Predators. There didn’t need to be. The Hawks knew they got outworked, that they lost the puck battles that decide games, that they played lazy defense and sloppy offense, that they gave away a game to a middling team.
“I didn’t say much,” Quenneville said. “I pointed it out, though.”
And the Hawks responded, lighting up and shutting down the San Jose Sharks 5-1 on Sunday night in a high-paced showdown of two of the top teams in the NHL. Patrick Sharp had two goals and an assist, Kris Versteeg and Brandon Pirri had a goal and an assist each, Brandon Saad had two assists and Corey Crawford — playing yet again after replacing the injured Nikolai Khabibulin in the first period in Nashville — made 23 saves in the victory.
Jonathan Toews — who chipped in a goal — said Saturday night that the Hawks weren’t about to push the panic button after the 7-2 debacle against the Predators, that they could write it off as just one of those nights in a long season.
Under one condition, that is — that they’d “respond.” And they did, in a big way.
“We’re happy with the way we responded,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Nobody was happy with the way things ended [Saturday] night, but we moved on and we did a good job regrouping.”
For Versteeg, the win was extra special. Reacquired in a trade late Thursday night, the popular winger’s first game back with the Hawks was an utter disaster. His first home game, however, couldn’t have gone much better.
With Brandon Saad bumped up to the top line in Marian Hossa’s absence (lower-body injury), Versteeg had instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri on the second line. He had a secondary assist on Pirri’s first-period goal off a Kane rebound, and scored in the third period when Saad was denied on a breakaway, but chased down the rebound and centered a perfect pass to a charging Versteeg, who had sprung Saad in the first place.
Versteeg now has three points in two games with the Hawks, while Pirri has a goal in three straight and Kane has a point in seven straight.
Versteeg was cheered loudly when his face appeared on the screen after his goal.
“It was emotional, obviously, coming back,” Versteeg said. “[Saturday] night wasn’t the way I saw myself coming back in my head, but tonight was very exciting. … Tonight was special, and they’re the best fans in the world here.”
Quenneville called the makeshift second line “dangerous.” It’ll be interesting to see if Quenneville keeps the unit together when Hossa returns to the lineup — possibly as early as Tuesday at Colorado — and moves Saad down to the third line, or if Versteeg returns to his customary spot there.
“Obviously, when you’ve got a guy like Kaner, you’ve just got to find areas and let him work his magic,” Versteeg said “Just try to be there in areas around the ice for him. We had some chemistry tonight and that’s what you’re going to have when you have so many good players on one team — you can just try to make each other better all the time.”
It was just the Sharks’ third regulation loss all season, and put the Hawks in a tie with Anaheim for the most points in the league (32). But more importantly, it rendered one poor effort an anomaly, rather than the beginning of a trend.
“Hockey is a funny game,” Sharp said. “Basically, if you win your one-on-one battles more than you lose them, good things are going to happen.”