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Captain Jonathan Toews’ fight gets Hawks going as start reaches 11-0-3

Chicago Blackhawks Vs San Jose Sharks. San Jose Sharks No.19 Joe Thorntlands punch face  Chicago Blackhawks No.19 Jonathan Toews.

Chicago Blackhawks Vs San Jose Sharks. San Jose Sharks No.19 Joe Thornton lands a punch to the face of Chicago Blackhawks No.19 Jonathan Toews. February 15 , 2013 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:52PM

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sent San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton crashing face-first to the ice along the boards in the corner in the first period Friday.

But that wasn’t enough for Toews. He shoved Thornton in the back as he got up. Then he did it again. And again.

Then Toews, who has a history with Thornton dating beyond
Thornton’s rabbit punch last
Feb. 10 in San Jose, Calif., followed him to the opposite corner and shoved him in the chest. Then he did it again. And again. Seven times in all, blatantly goading Thornton to drop the gloves, which he finally did in one of the NHL’s more star-studded fights in recent memory.

And because these are the Hawks and this is 2013, when it seems they can do no wrong, it all worked out just fine.

The Hawks killed off the double-minor assessed to Toews on top of the fighting major, then quickly scored, then went on to beat the Sharks 4-1 to extend their point streak to 14 games (11-0-3), two off the record to start a season.

‘‘I felt it was something I needed to do to stand up for myself,’’ Toews said. ‘‘I did it, and I’m glad I did it.’’

Toews was fortunate to get away with just a boarding minor and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for fighting with a visor on. He could have — and probably should have — received an instigator penalty, which carries with it a 10-minute misconduct. Instead, the Hawks gained momentum off the fight, as Dave Bolland put in the
rebound of his own shot at 19:16 of the first, during 4-on-4 action at the tail end of Toews’ double-minor.

‘‘The crowd normally gets excited for fights, and they start cheering,’’ Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘It was pretty quiet during that one. Everyone was saying, ‘Is that [Toews] fighting?’ It definitely gave us a spark.’’

The unlikely fight set the stage for an unusual evening. There was Marcus Kruger essentially getting an assist on his own goal after his dump-in from the blue line bounced off the choppy ice and over Sharks goalie Antti Niemi’s glove, off the right post and right back to Kruger’s stick on the left side for an easy tap-in. There was the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski batting in a rebound of a shot by Andrew Shaw for a power-play goal in the second period. And there was Sharp, another unlikely fighter, making an (unrequited)
offer to drop the gloves.

About the only normal thing about the game was the fact that the Hawks got points out of it.

‘‘I don’t know if we knew about the record, but I know we feel
we’ve got a good group in here,
and the record represents that,’’ Sharp said.

Ray Emery, who was playing in place of injured Corey Crawford, was sharp again. He improved to 4-0 this season with 27 saves,
including a highlight-reel stop on former Hawk Adam Burish in the third period. Niklas Hjalmarsson added a goal on a blast from the point for the final margin.

As for Toews, don’t expect him to drop the gloves too often in the future. It was only his third career fight. And while Thornton — a bigger, more experienced fighter — got the best of the scrap, Toews accomplished what he set out to do and walked away with a victory where it counted most — on the scoreboard.

‘‘I’m still here and still standing,’’ he said. ‘‘So that’s a good thing, right?’’

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