Let's put it this way: It was the kind of game that you almost
expected long-retired coach Patrick Roy and executive vice president
of hockey operations Joe Sakic to suit back up.
The Avalanche suffered their second-worst loss of the season while
Chicago winger Patrick Sharp celebrated his 32nd birthday by scoring
three goals and an assist, and center and team captain Jonathan
Toews added two goals and a pair of assists en route to a 7-2
"It's special anytime you can do it," Sharp said of his hat trick,
"but on a birthday where some of the guys were giving me some heat
for being an old-timer, that makes it even better."
His performance was made even sweeter with his parents watching on
in-person in the United Center stands, Sharp added.
But the joyful elixir of Friday's win won't last. The Blackhawks
head to St. Louis for Saturday night's game against the arch-rival
Blues, albeit with a huge amount of momentum.
"It's going to be a tough game going to St. Louis on a
back-to-back," Sharp said. "It's a fun place to play with two great
teams. It's going to be an awesome atmosphere. We're excited about
Added Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, "We know what our goals and
objectives are. We prepare for the next opponent, St. Louis. We have
a lot of respect for them and we know the meaning of that game. I
wouldn't discount anybody in our division."
Sharp became the first player in Blackhawks history to score a hat
trick on his birthday (the third three-goal single-game effort of
his career), and the second Blackhawks player to score a hat trick
this season, the other being Toews (Oct. 25 vs. Ottawa).
With its seventh win in the last nine games, Chicago improved to
27-7-6 (second best in the NHL) and a league-leading 60 points. The
Blackhawks' seven goals equaled a season high.
Sharp has been red-hot recently, scoring 13 goals in his last 14
games, and increased his points total to 40, second-best on the
team. Sharp is on pace to break his single-season record of 36
goals, set in 2007-08.
Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 16 of Colorado's 18
It was the second-worst defeat of the season for the Avalanche
(23-11-3), whose worst outing came in an 8-2 loss at Edmonton on
Colorado has now lost five of its last seven games (including three
in overtime). The Avalanche are 11-6-2 in road games.
[to top of second column]
"I thought the first 10 we were kind of playing with them a
bit, and then all of a sudden when they score that first goal and
then the second, it was getting tougher for us," Roy said. "At
some point I was thinking of replacing (Avalanche starting
goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere) after the first, but I thought it
would be unfair on my part to do that because he played so well
for us this year. I wanted to give him a chance."
Sharp scored his first two goals — his 19th and 20th — in the
first period at 12:27 and 19:18 (on the power-play), sandwiched
around the first of Toews' two goals in the game at 18:03 — his
first goal since Dec. 11 vs. Philadelphia. From there, the rout
was on against the Avalanche and Giguere, who stopped just 17 of
Chicago's 24 shots in the first two periods before being
replaced at the start of the third by Semyon Varlamov, who
stopped all 13 of Chicago's shots against him.
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith tallied three assists in the
game, giving him 33 for the season.
Sharp made it a hat trick and a 4-0 lead just 27 seconds into
the second period, and Toews added his second goal at 8:21 of
the period, with Sharp earning the assist for good measure.
"That's a job (facing Sharp and Toews) for the top defense and
top lines to match up against their top lines," Avalanche
defenseman Ryan Wilson said. "I think they played really well.
They always seem to play good at home. We just came out with a
bad, lackluster effort in the first (period) and it just carried
Colorado finally scored on center Paul Stastny's goal (No. 11)
at 9:07 of the middle period.
Chicago center Michal Handzus (No. 4) and right winger Kris
Versteeg (No. 8) added two more goals in the second period to
make it 7-1.
Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog scored his 11th goal at 7:37
of the third period to round out the Avalanche's scoring.
Chicago, which lost 5-1 in Denver to the Avalanche on Nov. 19,
now leads the all-time series between the two teams 50-47-9-6.
NOTES: Attendance was a season-high 22,201, surpassing the
regular-season opening mark of 22,158 vs. the Washington
Capitals. Chicago is now just two games away from 250
consecutive sellouts. ... Rumors continue to circulate that
Blackhawks G Corey Crawford is getting closer to returning from
the lower-body injury that sidelined him since Dec. 10. Latest
talk is he may be ready as early as Saturday at St. Louis or
Monday's home game vs. the Los Angeles Kings. ... Colorado has
been very fortunate this season when it comes to injuries. The
Avalanche lost only 57 man-games to injury, compared to 80 for
the Blackhawks. The only Avalanche regular who remains sidelined
is LW Alex Tanguay (knee). He is out indefinitely. ... Avalanche
C Matt Duchene appeared in his 300th career NHL game.
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