CHICAGO | The snow-job the San Jose Sharks lowered on the Blackhawks Sunday night held up equally as long as the storm outside the United Center.
The Hawks’ stars never thawed out, leaving any offense in regulation to a couple of defenseman. With the stars in deep freeze, the Sharks forced the Hawks to a shootout, where the visitors heated up plenty in the eventual 3-2 victory.
Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski beat Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to nail the win while icicles covered the likes of Jonathan Toews and red-hot Patrick Sharp in their shot attempts against the San Jose goalie Alex Stalock.
The Hawks were off-kilter much of the night as the Sharks outshot Chicago 42-35.
San Jose’s Jason Demers tallied the only goal of the game through the first two periods until the Hawks scored twice in the third.
“Tonight it was not a lot of energy out there,” said defenseman Duncan Keith said in an almost-empty Chicago locker room. “There will be games where we’re not (in top form). We got to find way to play it smart and get ourselves into it.
“It was a close game the whole way. We had lots of chances to win the game. It went to a shootout.”
Winger Kris Versteeg gave credit to the Sharks, who lost 5-1 in their other United Center appearance Nov. 18.
“They’re a team that doesn’t like to give you much space with the puck and they also like to hold onto the puck,” Versteeg said. “They can come at you from both ways.”
The Hawks took a 2-1 lead four minutes into the third on goals by Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Rozsival. Sharks winger Brent Burns tied it up midway through the period.
“Tonight wasn’t our best in the first and the second,” Versteeg said. “But we can build off the third, for sure.”
Crawford made 40 saves in his first home start since suffering an reported groin injury Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers here.
“It was a tough game,” Crawford said. “They played us pretty hard defensively. We were able to still come back. I like our team’s character. We never give up. But it’s a tough loss to take.”
Meanwhile, O-Day is looming Tuesday, when the Canadian Winter Olympic team is chosen. Patrick Kane already has made the Sochi-bound U.S. team, but far more Canadian candidates having stellar seasons on the Hawks are logical picks.
Another good performance against the Sharks in an NHL goals-pacing season would make the Olympic selections even much sweeter.
Toews and Keith seems locks. Sharp, hottest scorer in the league, should also get a serious look.
“It’s not about getting it over with,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the pending selections. “I think it’s something to look forward to. I’m looking forward to it with the same type of anticipation our players are.
“It’ll be a fun day for a lot of guys and we’ll see how it all plays itself out. I look at it on the bright side of things. It’ll be something to look forward to.”