SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A home game against a tired team is just the kind of opportunity the San Jose Sharks can’t afford to squander if they want to catch first-place Calgary.
After two mostly lackluster periods against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Sharks turned it on in the third and closed in on the Flames in the Pacific Division race.
Joe Thornton set up Marcus Sorensen for a tiebreaking goal early in the third period and Melker Karlsson tacked on two insurance goals that sent the Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night.
“That’s a big win for us,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re trying to close the gap on Calgary and we’re at home and we’ve been good at home all year. Our challenge is to win the games that we’re supposed to win at home. I actually thought we didn’t have as much energy. … We found a way.”
Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier also scored to help the Sharks end an eight-game stretch of alternating wins and losses. San Jose moved within three points of Calgary for first in the division, although the Flames have a game in hand.
Martin Jones made 28 saves for the Sharks and helped keep Patrick Kane off the score sheet. Kane failed to record a point in back-to-back games for just the second time this season, also doing it Nov. 21-23.
Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson scored for the Blackhawks, who lost on back-to-back days and now trail Western Conference wild-card leaders Dallas and Minnesota by eight points. Cam Ward made 29 saves.
“I think we are still in this thing,” Strome said.” We could win seven in a row pretty quickly. … No one wouldn’t believe we could do it. We have to string a couple of games in a row. We deserved better tonight, but they are a great team over there.”
The game was tied heading into the third when the Sharks took control. Thornton capped a strong shift by threading a perfect pass to Sorensen in the slot. Sorensen then beat Ward with a quick shot for his third goal in the past two games.
Just a few minutes later, Micheal Haley drew a delayed penalty and then set up Brent Burns, whose big shot deflected off Karlsson and into the net for a 4-2 lead.
Karlsson added an empty-netter to seal the win.
The Sharks won for the second straight game without injured Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane as they got strong contributions from several role players, including the fourth line that created numerous chances throughout before breaking through with Melker Karlsson’s two goals in the third.
“This team has got world-class players,” Haley said. “You’re very fortunate when you can lose some world-class players and still have some success. But I think along with that is we’re just a good team. Everybody wants to play for each other.”
The Blackhawks juggled their lines coming into the game with the most noteworthy changes being Chris Kunitz moving up to play on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and defensive pair Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook getting split up, with Keith playing with Gustafsson and Seabrook with Gustav Forsling.
It took more than eight minutes for Chicago to generate a shot on goal with the new lines and the Sharks struck first when Hertl took advantage of a line change to deke Keith and score his 29th of the season.
The Blackhawks then took over late in the period and got the equalizer after Kevin Labanc turned the puck over in the neutral zone, leading to a two-on-one rush the other way. Strome decided to shoot instead of pass to Alex DeBrincat and beat Jones with 27.1 second to play in the first.
The teams then traded goals again in the second period with Meier redirecting a shot from Tim Heed to put the Sharks up 2-1. Gustafsson answered with a shot from the high slot off a pass from Toews.
NOTES: Blackhawks F Drake Caggiula remains sidelined by a concussion suffered Wednesday at Anaheim. … Thornton played his 1,550th career game, tying Alex Delvecchio for 14th on the all-time list.
Chicago: Host Buffalo on Thursday.
San Jose: Host Montreal on Thursday.
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