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Patrick Sharp scores OT winner again for Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp beats Sharks goalie Antti Niemi defenseman Brent Burns (88) for game-winner OT. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Patrick Sharp beats Sharks goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Brent Burns (88) for the game-winner in OT. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 13, 2012 8:20AM

Antti Niemi was only 66 seconds away from continuing his dominance of the team that decided not to keep him after he backstopped them to the Stanley Cup.

But there was still ample time for the Blackhawks’ stars to make an impact on a relatively quiet and uncharacteristic night for them.

Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews made huge plays in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime as the Hawks shook off a bad first 40 minutes to knock off the testy San Jose Sharks 3-2 Sunday at the United Center.

“We found a way to win the game, especially against a good team like San Jose,” Hossa said.

Down 2-1 with a little more than a minute left, the Hawks drew up a play predicated on Toews winning a faceoff in the offensive zone.

Toews, who has the best faceoff winning percentage in the league, beat center Joe Pavelski, and Sharp got it to defenseman Duncan Keith, who passed the puck to Hossa. The high-scoring winger then fired a slap shot that was tipped in by Andrew Brunette with 1:06 left in regulation.

In overtime, Hossa, who had a game-high six shots, took another slap shot that bounced off Niemi and in front of Sharp, who got around defenseman Brent Burns for the game-winning goal with 34 seconds left.

“It hit me in the arm, the hand, the pants, the foot,” Sharp said of the game-winner, which Niemi also kicked in. “I was just trying to shovel it in some way.”

For Sharp, who has 16 goals this season, it capped a whirlwind of a day that was highlighted by bringing home his newborn daughter, Madelyn Grace, from the hospital.

“I was clearly focusing on hockey and doing everything I could out there,” Sharp said.

“But I was spacey all day and in the game. Thankfully, we tied it up, and I was able to chip in in overtime. I’ll be much better on Wednesday [against the Minnesota Wild].”

Coach Joel Quenneville, though, thought Sharp “had a pretty good game.”

“I look back when we had our first child, it’s an emotional time and a draining experience, but you’re on a cloud, and it’s a great feeling,” Quenneville said.

“Scoring back-to-back game-winners on the inside and outside of having a baby is a pretty special time.”

Sharp and the rest of the Hawks made sure to credit goalie Ray Emery for putting them in that position.

Emery had another strong outing, making 31 of his 35 saves in the first two periods. In the end, it was his performance that overshadowed Niemi’s.

“[Emery] was huge,” Quenneville said. “Rebounds were controlled. They put everything at the net, including bodies, and he fought through it all.”

The best sign for the Hawks is that they know they didn’t play their best, but still took two points from a rival. They killed off all their penalties again and were physical. Hossa and Keith scrapped with Ryane Clowe, who took several cheap shots, at the end of regulation.

“They were a hungry team,” Toews said. “We didn’t quite match that effort until the third period. We were lucky that we were able to keep it close and give ourselves a chance to come back.”

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