In the Chicago version of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," Evgeni Nabokov is the Grinch -- at least according to the 21,614 fans at the UnitedCenter on Tuesday night.
Nabokov did his best to spoil the Hawks' last pre-Christmas home game, stopping 45 shots on Tuesday night as the San Jose Sharks held off the Blackhawks 3-2. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each had a goal and an assist as the Sharks moved ahead of the Hawks into first place in the West -- and avenged a pair of losses to Chicago last month, including a 7-2 whipping at San Jose.
"We didn't have many chances, so we were lucky to create enough to win the game," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "Certainly when you look at it in the big picture, we didn't play near well-enough.
"We basically robbed one here tonight, and we can chalk that one up to Nabby."
The Sharks' third consecutive victory also moved them into first place in the Western Conference -- while snapping Chicago's four-game overall winning streak and its five-game win streak at home.
Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist for the Hawks, who lost despite outshooting the weary Sharks 47-14. San Jose won 4-2 in Dallas on Monday and was playing its third game in four days.
"We outshot them, but we couldn't create the top, top chances," Hossa said. "We tried to shoot from bad angles and chaos in front of the net, but their goalie played well.
"We have to learn from this," he added. "We have to be more poised with the puck and trust each other more."
Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet came into the game off back-to-back shutouts, but the streak ended 3:18 into the game when Heatley raced down the left side, took a feed from Dan Boyle and snapped a high shot that beat Huet to the short side, ending his shutout streak at 143:31. It was the only goal of a period that saw the Hawks outshoot the Sharks 15-4.
Chicago's domination continued in the second period. But despite being outshot 11-3, the Sharks led 2-0 after 40 minutes thanks to Joe Thornton's shorthanded goal at 5:10. Thornton, the NHL's leading scorer, took Joe Pavelski's pass on a 2-on-1 break and popped a close-in shot over Huet's left shoulder.
The shorthanded goal capped a tough night for the Hawks' power play, which went 0-for-7.
"Taking all the penalties slowed us down, but we battled," Nabokov said. "We needed our big guys to score, and they did."
Kane scored off a scramble 4:10 into the third period to end Nabokov's bid for a third shutout this season. But rookie defenseman Jason Demers restored the Sharks' two-goal lead just 20 seconds later when he took a pass from Thornton and fired a high shot from the slot that went past Huet's glove.
Hossa scored from a sharp angle during a 4-on-4 with 1:51 left to make it a one-goal game again, but the Hawks couldn't get the equalizer.
"We put a lot of pucks on the net, which is good -- what we wanted to do," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We still need to have guys going to the net for rebounds and getting in front of the net when we're shooting. That might help."
The Sharks will enjoy their three-day Christmas break a lot more after Nabokov stole two points for them.
"We let Nabby do all the work," Demers said. "We can't let him do that every game. He's human, too."
Material from team media and wire services were used in this report
|Dany Heatley (22) ASST: Dan Boyle (24)|
1 - 0 SJS
|SHG - Joe Thornton (10) ASST: Joe Pavelski (11)|
2 - 0 SJS
|Patrick Kane (11) ASST: Marian Hossa (6)|
2 - 1 SJS
|Jason Demers (2) ASST: Joe Thornton (41), Dany Heatley (19)|
3 - 1 SJS
|Marian Hossa (6) ASST: Patrick Kane (25), Duncan Keith (23)|
3 - 2 SJS
|Jed Ortmeyer Holding against Troy Brouwer|
|Ryane Clowe Tripping against Andrew Ladd|
|Jason Demers Tripping against Bryan Bickell|
|Troy Brouwer Hooking against Kent Huskins|
|Kris Versteeg Too many men/ice - bench|
|Joe Thornton Interference against Troy Brouwer|
|Jamie McGinn Tripping against Colin Fraser|
|Frazer McLaren Fighting (maj) against Bryan Bickell|
|Bryan Bickell Fighting (maj) against Frazer McLaren|
|Patrick Sharp Roughing against Dany Heatley|
|Kent Huskins Hooking against Patrick Sharp|
|Dustin Byfuglien Interference on goalkeeper against Evgeni Nabokov|
|Troy Brouwer Hi-sticking against Joe Thornton|
|Joe Thornton Cross checking against Andrew Ladd|
|Rob Blake Roughing against Jonathan Toews|
|Jonathan Toews Roughing against Rob Blake|