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Blackhawks’ second-period explosion puts away Sharks

blackhawks 6, sharks 3

San Jose 2 1 0—3

Blackhawks 1 5 0—6

First Period—1, San Jose, Pavelski 14 (Boyle, Marleau), 2:20 (pp). 2, HAWKS, Stalberg 11 (Campoli, Johnson), 12:13. 3, San Jose, Thornton 17 (Marleau, Pavelski), 18:36. Penalties—Pisani, HAWKS (boarding), 1:08; Johnson, HAWKS (hooking), 2:07; Boyle, SJ (interference), 4:23; Mitchell, SJ (hooking), 16:33.

Second Period—4, HAWKS, Hossa 20 (Sharp, Kane), 3:14 (pp). 5, HAWKS, Hossa 21 (Sharp, Kopecky), 6:06 (pp). 6, HAWKS, Toews 30 (Seabrook, Sharp), 7:25. 7, HAWKS, Hjalmarsson 3 (Kopecky, Keith), 14:29. 8, San Jose, Couture 26 (Vlasic, Clowe), 17:24. 9, HAWKS, Kane 24 (Sharp, Toews), 17:46. Penalties—Marleau, SJ (hooking), 2:09; Setoguchi, SJ (holding), 5:16; Eager, SJ (slashing), 14:48; Campoli, HAWKS (slashing), 18:07.

Third Period—None. Penalties—Demers, SJ (holding), 1:16.

Shots on Goal—San Jose 10-10-16—36. HAWKS 11-17-6—34.

Power-play opportunities—San Jose 1 of 3; HAWKS 2 of 6.

Goalies—San Jose, Niemi 26-17-5 (18 shots-14 saves), Niittymaki (12:35 second, 16-14). HAWKS, Crawford 27-13-5 (36-33).

Referees—Chris Lee, Kevin Pollock. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Steve Barton.

A—22,094 (19,717). T—2:23.

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

This much is certain about the Blackhawks’ crazy roller-coaster ride of a season: If their stars shine, there are few teams that will be able to contain them or play with them.

Take what happened Monday night against the red-hot San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Forwards Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane all had big games in a 6-3 victory against former Hawks goalie Antti Niemi.

Hossa led the Hawks with two power-play goals, and Toews scored on a 2-on-1 break with Kane in the second, chasing Niemi with more than half the game to play.

Sharp finished with a career-high four assists, all coming in the second period to tie a franchise record. Kane and Toews each had a goal and an assist.

“It’s important at this time of year to play your best hockey,” Sharp said. “For the most part, we’ve done that. You can’t sit there and read your newspaper clippings or watch your highlights. Day-to-day, you’ve really got to focus on the next game.”

It wasn’t just the clichéd must-win for the Hawks. A loss would have made their already reeling situation — the result of three losses in a row against Eastern Conference ­opponents — an ominous one.

The Hawks arguably have the toughest road ahead of all the teams jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference. With their victory, the Hawks jumped from seventh to fourth.

“We know our schedule is a little bit lighter [in games] in the next little while than a lot of teams,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We want to keep ourselves where we’re at today. Going forward, that’s our motivation.”

The Hawks certainly had their motivation Monday against Niemi, who had beaten them in their previous three meetings. But Niemi, who allowed four goals on 18 shots, lasted only 27:25 in their final matchup as the Hawks exploded for a season-high five goals in the second period.

The Hawks handed the Sharks — who have been propelled up the standings by the solid play of Niemi — just their fourth regulation loss in their last 25 games. Even defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (plus-3) got into the action with a blast from inside the blue line for his third goal of the season.

It was a complete turnaround from the Hawks’ overtime loss Sunday against the Washington Capitals. This time they overcame a slow start and dictated play.

“If I was going to sum up the game — they skated, we glided,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “They were hard on the boards, we were soft. They were determined at the net, we played ‘I hope’ around the net. We were looking for a win the easy way, and there’s 30 teams in the league right now that know that doesn’t work.”

The Hawks’ victory becomes more notable if you consider they were without defenseman Brian Campbell (left leg) and center Dave Bolland (concussion).

Corey Crawford made 33 saves, allowing goals to Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. Viktor Stalberg scored in the first, and Tomas Kopecky added two assists for the Hawks, who saw 11 players record at least one point.

It was a big night overall for the Hawks. Toews, Sharp and Kane even hit career milestones, with Toews (71) and Sharp (68) setting career highs in points in a season and Kane scoring his 100th career goal.

“Just when you think you have some breathing room, [the standings] tighten right up again,” Sharp said. “We beat a team that was ahead of us in the standings, so that’s a good feeling — but it doesn’t mean much if we can’t follow it up [Thursday] against Dallas.”

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