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Niemi beats Hawks again

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

It will take a lot of things from a lot of players for the Blackhawks to succeed with Jonathan Toews out of the lineup for two weeks.

Watching from the penalty box is not one of them.

Game 1 minus the captain had its high and lows, but the Hawks’ march to penalty box outweighed anything positive as the San Jose Sharks prevailed 5-3 Thursday at the United Center.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner 7:13 into the third period, moments after Jassen Cullimore’s holding penalty expired, and Ryane Clowe had an empty-netter in the final minute for Sharks, who went 2-for-6 on the power play.

There were penalties coach Joel Quenneville was frustrated with and ones he would refute such as Cullimore’s hold five minutes into the third.

“We did take too many penalties,” Quenneville said. “I’ll disagree 100 percent with two calls tonight, where I don’t even know where they came from. The one that put us down 5-on-3 and the one that led to the winning goal.”

The call against Cullimore put an end to the momentum the Hawks had from a two-goal burst in a 22.4-second span in the final 23 seconds of the third period that tied the game at 3.

“I didn’t see it live, and after watching the replay, I’m really upset,” Quenneville said. “Now I know why I didn’t see it.”

Antti Niemi (26 saves) overcame Troy Brouwer’s power-play goal with 22.9 seconds left in the second and Brian Campbell’s goal with 0.5 left to improve to 3-0 against his ex-mates.

The short burst rejuvenated the Hawks, who had fallen behind 3-1. But it wasn’t enough.

“There were a few F-bombs for about a minute, and then we kind of calmed the dressing room down shortly after,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “We just said, ‘Hey, we’ve still got a chance to win the game.’ It took about a minute, but it did calm down after that.”

The Sharks killed off a Hawks power play early in the third, and after that the momentum belonged to them.

“We kind of made it easy on their skilled players, and their power-play is too good to give them that many chances,” said Patrick Sharp, who gave the Hawks 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 15:44 in the first period. “We scored a couple power-play goals, but it seems like when we needed a big one it wasn’t there.”

Scott Nichol’s game-tying goal with 1:06 left in the first was a momentum changer. It also appeared to be stoppable as he beat an unscreened Marty Turco (20 saves) with a 35-foot slap shot.

“Anytime pucks go through you, ones you [stop] normally, routine-type ones, they hurt,” Turco said. “We gave ourselves a run there late in the second. It just didn’t pan out.”

Again, penalties were crucial as Ben Ferriero (5-on-3) and Dany Heatley scored power-play goals in the second for the Sharks.

The Hawks’ penalty kill has struggled all year, and a disciplined approach — which the Hawks had when Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane were out of the lineup — is a must without Toews.

“Power play. Penalty kill. Faceoff. Captain. Leading scorer. Pretty important guy,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Toews. “I don’t know if I can put it any clearer than that.”

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