Patrick Sharp scores 2 as Blackhawks overwhelm Devils
December 23, 2013 (AP) – The Chicago Blackhawks kick-started their league-leading offense by holding on to the puck — and shutting down New Jersey defensively.
Patrick Sharp scored twice and Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy also connected to lead Chicago to a 5-2 win over the Devils on Monday night.
Stephen Gionta and Michael Ryder had goals for the Devils, whose season-high four-game point streak (3-0-1) ended.
New Jersey was lucky to get those two scores — off a failed clearing attempt and a close-in turnover — as Chicago outshot the Devils 37-12, and controlled the puck and the play.
“I thought it was one of our better games all year as far as puck possession, directing plays,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought we did everything we were looking to do in the game. I liked their energy, I liked their thought process, our purpose.”
The Blackhawks spent little time in their zone. With only a couple of exceptions, they moved the puck to their forwards efficiently and left the Devils.
Sharp, who recorded his third two-goal game this season, was one of the beneficiaries.
“It starts with the defense making great plays in the D-zone,” he said. “We’ve had great forwards here for a while that want the puck and want to score goals.”
The 25-year-old Kane has been better offensively this season, his seventh in the NHL. He has points in 12 straight games, matching his career high — set earlier this season and just before his run.
Kane has seven goals and 14 assists in his streak, and at least one point in all but one of his past 25 games, helping him climb into second in the NHL scoring race behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.
“If we can play defense like that every night, I think you’re going to see more scores like that,” he said.
Bickell’s goal was his first since Nov. 10, but he missed 14 of Chicago’s 19 games during that span with a knee injury.
Chicago rookie Antti Raanta blocked 10 shots in his seventh straight start — all since Blackhawks top goalie Corey Crawford suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 8. He faced the fewest shots against Chicago in a game this season.
New Jersey’s Cory Schneider made 32 saves.
“They’re a relentless team,” Schneider said. “They don’t give up on the puck and they’re always trying to force turnovers. They didn’t take their foot off the gas.
“We just didn’t play at the level we need to play to compete.”
The Blackhawks outshot the Devils 12-2 in the first period and led 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Sharp opened the scoring at 12:59 when he snapped off a 40-foot shot from the left boards. New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne reached toward the puck with his right glove, but deflected it past Schneider.
One of the Devils’ two shots in the period was a dump-in from their own blue line while killing a penalty.
Gionta tied it at 1 at 5:37 of the second on a deflection at the doorstep and the Devils’ fourth shot on goal.
Following a failed Chicago clearing attempt on the left boards, Jon Merrill fired from the top of the slot. The puck struck the skate of Blackhawks defenseman Michael Kostka, then ticked in off Gionta’s stick.
Kane put Chicago back ahead 2-1 just over 2 minutes later when he drove to the net and slammed in a rebound of Leddy’s shot. Schneider made a glove save on Leddy’s drive from the slot, but it dropped to the ice and Kane plowed over Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky to score.
Bickell made it 3-1 with 7:33 left in the period, connecting on a rising, screened shot from the right circle after taking a feed from Brandon Saad.
Ryder swept in a backhand 59 seconds into the third to cut it 3-2 after he picked off a clearing pass by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The Devils managed to come back from a two-goal deficit against Washington on Saturday to win in overtime. The Blackhawks didn’t let that happen.
“Tonight we gave away way too much space and way too much opportunity to move the puck as well,” Ryder said. “We’re pretty stingy on defense usually, and tonight we got away from that and tonight it shows on the scoreboard.”
Set up by Marian Hossa’s stretch pass, Sharp scored his second goal on a breakaway at 5:54 to extend Chicago’s lead to 4-2. He took the feed at center ice, streaked in alone and fired a low shot under Schneider’s glove.
Leddy’s power-play goal, on a drive from the top of the circle with 7:01 left, completed the scoring.
Sharp narrowly missed a hat trick, firing the puck off the post with 39 seconds left.
*Photo courtesy of Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images