The Blackhawks got back on the winning track with a dominating performance over the Sharks.
Patrick Kane had two goals, Alex Nylander and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist, Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik also scored and Alex DeBrincat added three assists to lift the Blackhawks to a 6-2 victory over the Sharks on Wednesday night at the United Center.
The win snapped the Blackhawks' two-game losing skid and pulled them to within six points of a Western Conference wild-card spot.
After Evander Kane opened the scoring for the Sharks, the Blackhawks reeled off four consecutive goals - three of them in the second period.
Timo Meier scored early in the third to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 4-2 but Kane and Kubalik put the game away late. Kubalik's goal was his 30th of the season to become the fifth player in Blackhawks history to score 30 goals in his rookie season.
"We got better as the game went on," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I really liked (how) we increased the pace of our game, the tempo of our game in the second. We were skating (and) we had excellent back pressure. Nice to see the puck go in for us, and for the most part, we carried that through to the end of the game."
Corey Crawford started his 10th consecutive game in goal for the Blackhawks and made 34 saves to earn the victory. Sharks netminder Aaron Dell allowed all six Blackhawks goals on 45 shots.
Here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks' win:
After going scoreless on the power play five consecutive games, the Blackhawks broke out with two scores on the man advantage against the Sharks.
"It's nice to get that going, you know?" Kane said. "I think that's a huge part of the game. You look after the second period we're up 3-1 and we have two power-play goals. That's something we've been missing all year but it was good (Wednesday night)."
The first power-play score came when Keith fired a shot from just inside the blue line that sailed past Dell. Providing traffic in front was rookie center Kirby Dach, something Kane - who had the Blackhawks' second goal while skating with an extra player - said is key to putting life into the power play.
"A big part of the power play is a net-front guy," Kane said. "If you look at our past successful power plays, (Artem) Anisimov was really good in front of the net. (Troy) Brouwer, (Tomas) Kopecky, guys like that that would kind of stand there and were big bodies. With us, it comes down to putting the puck in the net. Our entries are fine, we get good shots, (but) we're not putting it in."
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks put two in during three opportunities and Colliton credited a better tempo.
"Things were happening quicker, quick support (and) we moved the puck quicker," Colliton said. "Shooting mentality, obviously the first goal, we just were willing to shoot the puck and we had a screen and that helps. Then, I thought the breakout, not everyone was successful but just a much quicker tempo and speed and obviously (Kane) scored off it and hopefully we can build some confidence and momentum from what they did."
Two Blackhawks made their NHL debuts Wednesday night. Brandon Hagel, who was recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Monday, skated on a forward line along with Kirby Dach and Matthew Highmore while Nicolas Beaudin - recalled Tuesday - was paired with Duncan Keith on the blue line.
"I enjoyed playing with (Beaudin)," Keith said. "I thought he was great for his first-ever NHL game, as young as he is. I thought he played with a lot of poise and patience. He moved the puck (and) he was in good support positions a couple times early in the first. I tight-turned back and he was right there to pick up the puck.
"Being in a support position as a defensemen, those are the things that make a good partner and a good defenseman when they're available for their partner to be outlet passes and make plays," Keith continued. "He helped our transition game, especially with (Adam Boqvist) out (Wednesday night) and obviously other guys we've been missing throughout the year."
Also in the lineup for the Blackhawks was defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who played in his sixth NHL games after being recalled Feb. 22.
Hagel and Beaudin are the sixth and seventh players to appear with the Blackhawks after spending time in Rockford this season, joining Dach, Anton Wedin, John Quenneville, Boqvist and Carlsson.
Seeing the organization rewarding strong play in the AHL with recalls is motivating, Carlsson said.
"When you see guys coming up you know that Chicago's got a really good organization and they really believe in their players," Carlsson said. "When you're down there and you see guys coming up, you want to work harder and some day you'll get the call."
Added Beaudin, who was selected by the Blackhawks in the first round (27th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft: "We're all working hard down there. It's not an easy league at all. We're all working together down there and when someone gets a call up we're all happy for him."
Before the game, Beaudin called his NHL debut "a dream come true."
"When I got to Rockford this year I just wanted to grow my game and lately in the last month I've been playing some good hockey down there," Beaudin, 20, added. "But you never know what's going to happen. You just play your game and take it day by day, and when I got the call I was excited for sure."
Against the Sharks, Beaudin had two hits, two blocks and two shots on goal in 17 minutes, 1 second of ice time. Hagel had a hit, block and four shots on goal in 11:48 while Carlsson had two blocks, two hits and two shots in 18:08.
"The young players who came in were very good, gave us energy and made a lot of plays," Colliton said. "A lot of good efforts, so everyone has a good feeling."
The postgame news conferences were dominated by talk of the NBA suspending play due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility the NHL could follow suit.
During the game, the NHL issued a statement reading:
"The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA's decision (Wednesday night) to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. "The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update (Thursday)."
The NHL Players' Association also released a statement Wednesday saying, "We are in continuous contact with the NHL regarding the coronavirus and the recent announcement by the NBA. "These discussions will continue (Thursday) morning, and we will consult with players before commenting further."
Blackhawks players found out about NBA's decision following their victory and were still gathering their thoughts in the aftermath of the game.
"I guess things are getting pretty real around here," Kane said. "You know, it is what it is. I guess we'll take the recommendations that we get and hope it passes by soon. I think as players you want to keep playing the games and keep the season going and for us, I think we were pretty excited about this three-game stretch we have here, San Jose, Ottawa and Washington and trying to win these games and get ourselves back into it again."
Said Keith of the NBA's decision and how it might impact the NHL: "It makes you wonder what's going to happen and it really could be something where we're doing the same thing. We'll leave that up to the NHL to make the call.
"Obviously, it's a pretty serious situation," Keith added. "I've got some friends … that play over in the European leagues and some of those leagues have been canceled. It's a weird spot to be in. This is a first for us to be in this situation. You kind of have to leave it up to some of the people in charge to make those decisions on what they feel is best and have faith that they know what they're doing."