After two performances that left a lot to be desired in southern California to open the weekend the Blackhawks flew north to San Jose for a Sunday night contest against a Sharks team that is significantly better than the Ducks or Kings.
Coach Jeremy Colliton threw the lines in the blender right away. Chris Kunitz found himself on the top line and Brendan Perlini started on the second. Brandon Saad and Dominik Kahun skated with Artem Anisimov on the third line.
Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane didn’t dress for San Jose.
The only late game on the NHL calendar, the two teams started the night quickly; there wasn’t a stoppage for five minutes to open the game, and the Blackhawks weren’t in any rush to put the puck on net. Martin Jones wasn’t tested much early in the first period.
Tomas Hertl gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 12:16 but the Hawks followed that goal with some offensive pressure. They couldn’t convert until the final minute of the opening period when Dylan Strome sniped home his 17th of the season.
Alex DeBrincat and Brent Seabrook picked up the assists.
The Hawks out-shot the Sharks 11-7 in the first period and the game was tied after 20 minutes.
Timo Meier gave the Sharks the lead once again, scoring his 23rd of the season 1:28 into the second period. This time it took the Blackhawks five minutes to tie the game. Erik Gustafsson and Jonathan Toews shared nicely and Gustafsson slammed home his 13th of the season.
The only other Hawks defenseman to scored as many as Gustafsson’s 13 goals since the Hawks won the Cup in 2010 was Seabrook, who had 14 during the 2015-16 season.
Toews and Duncan Keith were credited with helpers on Gustafsson’s goal.
The game remained tied for the rest of the second but the Blackhawks had some great looks late in the period. Hertl went to the box with 2:23 left in the frame and the Hawks went to work. Chicago put five shots on net during the power play in the closing minutes of the second period but couldn’t beat Jones.
After 40 minutes the score was tied at two. San Jose out-shot the Hawks 14-11 in the second period.
Joe Thornton put on a puck possession clinic four minutes into the third period and eventually found Marcus Sorensen, who ripped his 14th of the season to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead.
Perlini went to the box for tripping less than 40 seconds later, giving San Jose their first power play of the night. Chicago’s penalty kill ranks dead last in the NHL and allowed two goals to the Kings’ power play on Saturday afternoon.
So of course the Hawks easily subdued the fourth-ranked power play in the league.
Eight minutes into the third the Blackhawks were going to be called for a penalty. However, the Blackhawks forgot about the whole “have to stop play” part of the equation. Melker Karlsson scored his 10th of the season, apparently getting a piece of a Brent Burns shot, as Jones skated to the Sharks’ bench for the extra attacker; Chicago’s skaters quit on the play and paid for it.
With 11 minutes left in regulation the Blackhawks were now chasing two in a must-win game.
Cam Ward skated to the bench for an extra attacker with 3:15 left in regulation and his team still down 4-2. Unfortunately, two of the six skaters on the ice were Marcus Kruger and Gustav Forsling, both of whom were out there for an extended shift. The Hawks turned the puck over and Karlsson found the empty cage to make the score 5-2.
With 86 seconds left in regulation Michael Haley caught Connor Murphy with a high stick. The clock ran out without the Blackhawks giving much of an effort on the power play.
Since their seven-game winning streak the Blackhawks have plummeted back to earth. They’re 4-6-0 in their last ten with this weekend’s 1-2 California trip leaving an especially bitter taste.
Patrick Kane was held without a point again.