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Blackhawks rally for 5-3 win over Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The puck had barely dropped Tuesday night at HP Pavilion, and the Chicago Blackhawks were already staring at a 2-0 deficit in their showdown with the San Jose Sharks.

So with nearly 15 minutes still left in the first period, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called a timeout to talk things over with his team.

He should bottle that message.

The Blackhawks rallied to pull even at 3-3 before the end of a wild first period and went on to beat the Sharks 5-3 in a battle of Western Conference powers.

"It wasn't the start we wanted," Quenneville said. "We know they're the fastest starting team in the League, and they get the crowd going. Getting a response quickly was important, and I liked the way the guys battled back, stuck together. I thought we really improved our team game as it progressed."

Patrick Kane scored two goals for the Blackhawks, the eventual game-winner in the second period and an empty-net goal late in the third.

In the first period, Chicago's Brandon Saad scored his first career National Hockey League goal, and the Blackhawks also had goals from Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger.

The Blackhawks entered the game with a League-leading 16 points (one more than San Jose), and added two more to their total. They improved to 8-0-2 and remained the NHL's only team without a loss in regulation.

"It's a good start," Kane said. "I think it shows the excitement we have in the room from coming back from a game like that. We've played a lot of games on the road. Long road trip, and we're still focused on hockey. It's a good start. Hopefully we can continue it. I think we can even play better, so that's the exciting part."

Kane broke a 3-3 tie at 11:52 of the second period, giving the Blackhawks their first lead of the night. Jonathan Toews stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray deep in San Jose's zone, just left of the crease, and whipped a pass to Kane in the right circle. Kane quickly blasted a shot past Antti Niemi.

Kane added an empty-net goal with 1:13 left to play.

Joe Pavelski, Tommy Wingels and Michal Handzus scored for the Sharks, who were coming off a 2-1 loss Monday night at Anaheim and fell for the third straight game.

"We had a good lead, but they kept scoring, which is what good teams do," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "They are on top of the conference for a reason."

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 30 shots. Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010, stopped 27.

The Sharks and Blackhawks skated to a 3-3 tie in a first period that included the final four goals in a span of 89 seconds.

But at 8:48 of the second period, Sharks fourth-line forward Andrew Desjardins received a match penalty, ending his night, for what linesman Jonny Murray ruled was a hit to the head of former Shark Jamal Mayers. Just seconds after the big hit, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith instigated a fight with Desjardins. Keith received two minutes for instigating and two for instigating while wearing a face shield. He was also hit with a five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it was a "terrible call," on Desjardins, and NHL supervisor of officials Mick McGeough agreed with him.

“The way the linesman saw it on the ice, he was convinced it was a major penalty," McGeough told a pool reporter. "Unfortunately, he was wrong. It’s been overruled, taken care of by the League and Brendan Shanahan and the safety committee, and there are no more issues right now. ... Jonny Murray made the call. Unfortunately, he wasn’t overruled by the referee. It is what it is.”

Desjardins doesn't have to worry about supplementary discipline from the League, but McLellan said that call hurt the Sharks dearly.

"I don't know if we're going to come back or not, but at that point we're still in the game and we should have been on a four-minute power play," he said. "That's a good hockey hit, but the linesman called it. No one else saw it. I think they err as a League to call those penalties. You can always do something about it later. If you don't see it, you don't call it.

"It had a huge impact. We don't get four minutes of power play, but there were other things that impacted the game, like we were being sloppy. We go from a high to a low on the bench, and guys are starting to wonder what happened. We made a mistake in our end."

Mayers was convinced he took a blow to the head.

"Yeah absolutely," he said. "It was a hit to the head. I’m not sure if it was elbow or forearm or whatever it was. We’re trying to get that out of our game. It’s unfortunate that happened. But we got a power play out of it, and most importantly we won the game."

Pavelski put the Sharks ahead 1-0 when he batted a rebound out of the air from close range and past Crawford just 2:54 into the game. Wingels, a Chicago-area native, made it 2-0 with his first goal of the season, taking a cross-ice pass in the left circle from Handzus and ripping a shot past Crawford at 5:18. The puck appeared to deflect off Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy, leaving Crawford helpless.

Quenneville used his timeout, and the Blackhawks responded.

"I think at that point we didn't have a shot, so Joel stressed getting shots on net," Kane said. "I think pretty much every goal was from a cycle play or winning a faceoff or getting a shot at the net then going to the net and getting a goal. A couple great plays by the guys."

Saad cut the Sharks' lead to 2-1 at 10:08 of the first with his first NHL goal. He took a backhand pass from Brent Seabrook in the slot and hammered the puck past Niemi.

"It feels real good," Saad said of his first goal. "It was a wild game. To get it in a win like this, it was a huge game for the West and a big game for us."

The Sharks answered quickly as Handzus scored his first goal of the season, jumping San Jose's lead to 3-1 at 10:47 of the period. Wingels zipped a cross-ice pass to Handzus, who ripped the puck past Crawford from the faceoff dot in the left circle.

Eight seconds later, Shaw scored from the low slot, slicing San Jose's lead to 3-2. Bryan Bickell hit Shaw with a pass from behind the net, and Shaw beat Niemi to his glove side.

The Blackhawks pulled even at 11:37 on Kruger's unassisted goal. Niemi stopped one shot, but when defenseman Justin Braun tried to clear the puck from in front of the net, he skated into Wingels. The puck bounced off Wingels' skate to Kruger, who tallied his first goal of the season.

"It's been a great start, and we're happy with everything," Quennville said. "We like the balance. The four-line rotation's been great. Tough schedule as well in some tough buildings. Finding a way to win has been a good sign for us. We're having fun right now."

The Sharks haven't had much fun recently. They went 0-for-3 on the power play and are 1-for-21 over their past four games. The Sharks did, however, kill four more penalties, extending their streak to 31.

After missing one game with an injury to his lower right leg, Chicago's Dave Bolland returned to center the second line. Sharks veteran defenseman Dan Boyle was back in the lineup after missing Monday's game at Anaheim due to the flu.

After the Sharks scored a combined two goals in their previous two games, both losses, McLellan shuffled his lines against Chicago. His biggest move was splitting top-line wing Patrick Marleau and Thornton. Marleau dropped to the second line, switching places with Ryane Clowe, and skated with center Logan Couture and Martin Havlat.

Clowe entered the game with zero goals and four points. Marleau and Thornton were slumping after fast starts. Marleau had nine goals and 14 points in the Sharks' first five games, but had zero goals and one point in the past four heading into Tuesday. After racking up 11 assists and 14 points in the first five, Thornton had zero goals and one assist in the next four.

Thornton and Marleau both went without a point Tuesday, while Clowe had an assist.

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