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Another OT winner for Sharp lifts Hawks past Sharks

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO – It's a good thing Patrick Sharp didn't take a leave of absence after the birth of his first child on Friday.

The Chicago Blackhawks needed his second straight game-winning goal in overtime on Sunday night at the United Center plus a stellar performance by goalie Ray Emery to steal a 3-2 overtime victory from the jaws of the stunned San Jose Sharks – who'd clung to a one-goal lead for most of the game.

It was Sharp's second OT game-winner in a row and bookended around the birth of his daughter. The whirlwind left the star forward's mind a little blurry, but not enough to keep him from coming up clutch.

"That was a tough game, personally, to be a part of," said Sharp, who took his wife and daughter home from the hospital earlier in the day. "I did my best to stay focused. It was a pretty emotional goal there. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it. It's tough to focus on hockey when so much is going on back home."

Sharp finished with a plus-2 rating and got a thumbs-up by Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, but he didn't feel right all game.

"It's easy to kind of turn things off when you come to the rink, but I thought I was a space cadet for the whole game and then I was able to bounce one in there for the winner … so, I got lucky," Sharp said. "I'll be much better on Wednesday (at Minnesota). Mom and baby are doing great, so it's going to be a lot of fun to go home tonight."

Another recent first-time father, Marian Hossa, also played a key role in Chicago's late-game charge – which turned a sub-par outing into an exciting win. Hossa doesn't usually take many slap shots, but he fired a couple of late ones that wound up as primary assists on Chicago's last two goals.

The first, which came after a Hawks timeout, was a one-timer tipped in by Andrew Brunette in front that tied it 2-2 with just 1:06 left in regulation. The second led directly to Sharp's rebound goal, which he guided past sprawled former Hawks goalie Antti Niemi to end it 4:26 into overtime.

"I felt like the first one was a great play by (Duncan Keith) and I just tried to get it in my wheelhouse and one-time it," Hossa said. "The second one I just felt like I had a little bit of time, so instead of wristing it I tried shooting it as hard as I can toward the blocker side. Sharp did the rest."

If it wasn't for Emery (season-high 35 saves), the Hawks might have found themselves down by a lot more than just one goal. Emery got his third straight start and has now stopped 103-of-109 shots for a .945 save percentage over his last five appearances.

He needed to be sharp, too.  The Sharks came into this game after losing a tough, physical road game on Saturday night in St. Louis. Chicago was well-rested.  Instead of looking road-weary, however, San Jose came out strong and dominated the shots count in the first two periods by a whopping 33-13 margin.

The Sharks got goals by Jamie McGinn and Justin Braun, who gave his team a 2-1 lead in the second less than two minutes after Chicago's Marcus Kruger tied it 1-1 at the 7:53 mark. The Sharks went back to controlling the action until the Hawks made push in the third and OT by outshooting San Jose 21-4 to narrow the final shots margin to just 37-34 for San Jose.

"There was a lot of real good things (for us) early in the game," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "(We) had a heavy forecheck, came out of our end very well (and) put them in some stressful situations. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of gas in the tank to continue that, and we just didn't have it in the third."

The faceoff circle is where that became most evident. The Hawks (18-8-4) won 60 percent of the draws in the third and OT and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews finished by winning 9 of 10 face-offs in the offensive zone for the game.

"When you have the puck, when you win faceoffs, you start with it and it backs the other team off and makes them play," McLellan said. "When you lose faceoffs, they're on top of you and now you play your 30-second shift in the (defensive) zone. You've got to give them credit as well. They smelled that we were tired and they responded with a good game. That's what good teams do."

Toews agreed.

"There's been a couple ugly games lately and we've been going overtime – whether it's a shootout or the overtime period," he said. "It doesn't matter to us. We want to find a way to win. Even (in) tough games like (this), we have that confidence that we can pull it out."

Good thing they had it in this game, because it looked like the reverse of the first game between these teams – which the Sharks won 1-0 on a great performance by Niemi. Chicago outplayed San Jose that night. This time, they were lucky to escape.

"We didn't have any pace in the first 40 minutes," Quenneville said. "They dictated the game. We had more urgency in the third. I like our resiliency. We found a way to get back in the game."

Also adding to the atmosphere of the game, the Blackhawks hosted several members of this year's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class, who will be inducted on Monday in Chicago. That included former Hawks defensemen Chris Chelios and Gary Suter. All were shown on the scoreboard and given a standing ovation, including Chelios – who's from Chicago but was traded to the rival Detroit Red Wings, where he currently works in the front office.

Last time he was introduced here, on his own Blackhawks Heritage Night, Chelios was booed. This time, he was given a "Chicago's own," introduction and cheered loudly. The Blackhawks also brought back former star goalie Eddie Belfour, recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, to announce a Blackhawks Heritage Night will be held for him on March 25.
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