CALGARY - Patrick Sharp's short-handed goals have become a predicable storyline for the Blackhawks lately.
Sharps fifth short-handed goal of the month early in the third period was the game-winner Thursday, handing Chicago a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Jarome Iginla's pass back to the blue-line skipped over the stick of Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin enabling Sharp to race the other direction, make a quick move to his forehand and tuck his 11th goal of the season behind Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
"A horrible bounce," said Aucoin. "Iggy made a good pass, it was flat, then it just skipped at the last moment. It was just bad luck on our part."
Chicago is the NHL's runaway leader in short-handed goals with nine, while Ottawa is a distant second with five.
"We're aggressive all over the ice, we're blocking a lot of shots, and we have good speed with our forwards. Put all that together, throw in a little bit of luck and a few good bounces," said Sharp when pressed to explain his club's shorthanded prowess.
Jacob Dowell, in his NHL debut, scored the other goal for Chicago (12-8-1). It also came shorthanded.
"It's a great feeling, I've worked hard, and it's finally paying off getting my chance here," said Dowell, 22, the first ever NHL player from Eau Claire, Wis. "I know it's a cliche but every kid dreams of being able to play in the NHL."
The Blackhawks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are 2-1-1 four games into a six-game road trip, which continues Saturday night in Edmonton.
Iginla scored the lone goal for Calgary (9-10-3), which had only given up one short-handed goal in its first 21 games. The Flames are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games.
"We outplayed them, we just didn't put it in the net and they got the lucky ones," said Aucoin.
Calgary pressed for much of the third period outshooting Chicago 15-2 in the final 20 minutes, but they couldn't get the tying goal past Nikolai Khabibulin, who finished the night with 30 saves.
"You can talk about the short-handed goals all you want, but without Nik tonight, the Flames come away with those two points," said Sharp.
"He takes a lot of heat but it's not warranted. We give up a lot of scoring chances and he stands on his head a lot of nights. His numbers might not be amongst the league-leaders but in this room we're confident with him between the pipes."
Chicago took a 1-0 lead at 5:29 of the second on a bizarre play. As Calgary gained the Chicago zone, the puck was dropped back towards Alex Tanguay at the blue-line. However, in a scene of confusion, Tanguay appeared to purposely let the puck slide right through his legs apparently expecting someone to be behind him. Instead, Dowell headed the other way and scored on the breakaway.
Dowell was recalled on Monday from Rockford (AHL) along with Kris Versteeg, who also made his debut, to fill in for injuried forwards Rene Bourque (broken thumb) and Jason Williams (groin).
On Calgary's next power play after falling behind, coach Mike Keenan, who often deploys four forwards and just one defenceman on the power play, opted to go with two forwards and three defencemen. The unusual tactic paid off with Iginla's goal at 12:17 of the second.
Calgary tried the same approach in its next power play, but this time with the same defensive trio of Phaneuf, Aucoin, and Anders Eriksson on the ice, it resulted in Sharps go-ahead goal.
"We took our beatings for a couple years in Chicago and winning's certainly new to this team in here and it's unbelievable, it's so much fun," said Sharp.
Head coach Denis Savard hopes they can keep it going until they get some of their veterans back like Martin Havlat, who has missed 20 games with a shoulder injury.
"With all the guys going down, it's getting tough, we're pretty thin," said Savard. "It's difficult when you have to slot certain players into certain positions and move them up a couple slots but we've just got to hang in there."
Notes - Iginla played his 800th career game. Hes second on the Flames all-time list behind Al MacInnis (803)... Dustin Boyd made his season debut after being recalled from Quad City (AHL). Its his second NHL stint as the 21-year-old got into 13 games (two goals, two assists) last year... Calgary's Marcus Nilson (concussion) missed his second game... Seven of the Blackhawks nine shorthanded goals have come on the road.