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11/18/2013 1:41 AM EST
Blackhawks pound Sharks 5-1
CHICAGO 5, SAN JOSE 1

By MATT CARLSON
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- A night after giving up seven goals, the Chicago
Blackhawks rebounded with an improved defensive effort.

Patrick Sharp scored two goals, including one on a third-period
penalty shot, and Kris Versteeg had a goal and an assist to lead
Chicago to a 5-1 win over San Jose in a matchup of two of the
Western Conference's top teams on Sunday night.

Jonathan Toews and rookie Brandon Pirri also scored for the
Blackhawks, who lost 7-2 in Nashville on Saturday, their most
lopsided this season.

"Tonight was back-and-forth, trading chances, but at the same
time, there's a lot of individual battles that we were on top
of," Sharp said.

Chicago limited road-weary San Jose to a handful of prime
scoring opportunities before pulling away with three goals in
the third period.

"We weren't happy with the last game, obviously," said Chicago
goalie Corey Crawford, who finished with 23 saves. "Tonight was
one of our better efforts all around, defensively, from everyone
in this room.

"(San Jose) came out strong, but throughout the game, we had a
little bit more legs than them. We opened up the game at the end
there."

Versteeg scored his first goal with the Blackhawks in his first
home game since being reacquired in trade from Florida on
Thursday. A member of Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team,
he joined the Blackhawks Saturday in Nashville.

"It was emotional, obviously, coming back," Versteeg said. "Last
night wasn't definitely the way I saw coming back in my head,
but tonight was very exciting. The guys put in a big effort."

Crawford and San Jose's Antti Niemi, the goalies who backstopped
the Blackhawks to their two recent Stanley Cup titles, opposed
each other.

Crawford, in nets for Chicago's Cup run last season, allowed
only a second-period goal to San Jose's Joe Pavelski on a shot
he caught, but then misplayed.

Niemi, who helped lead the 2010 Blackhawks to the championship,
stopped 22 as he faced his former team for the 12th time. Niemi
is 5-6-1 against the Blackhawks.

The Sharks haven't won in Chicago since Dec. 3, 2010, Niemi's
first game against his old club. They're 0-5-1 at the United
Center since then.

And Niemi didn't get a lot of help in this one, as the
Blackhawks created chances and pounced on San Jose turnovers.

"We lacked a lot of energy that was needed to play in this
game," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "When you don't have
energy, you better be sharp mentally and we may have been poorer
in that area.

"There are a lot of teams that play against the Blackhawks and
I'm sure the coaches are telling them the same thing: That
turnovers kill you," McLellan added. "Their counter-punch is
incredible and we learned that lesson again.

The Sharks played the final contest of a five-game road trip,
finishing at 3-1-1 on a zigzagging swing with four contests in
Western Canada and a finale in Chicago.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, embark on a seven-game "circus trip"
Tuesday at Colorado. They don't return to the United Center
until Dec. 3 against Dallas.

Chicago started its solid send-off in the first period when
Pirri scored the only goal of a crisply played frame with 3:26
left. Pirri, who led the AHL in points last year with 75 points,
has goals in three straight games and four in his past six.

Patrick Kane went down the right wing into the San Jose zone,
backing in Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan to the circle. Kane's
shot deflected off Hannan and across the crease to the left side
of the net, where Pirri buried the loose puck.

Pavelski tied it at 8:16 of the second on a 30-foot shot from
the slot. Crawford picked Pavelski's shot out of the air with
his glove, but when he lowered it to his side, the puck rolled
out and trickled across the goal line.

Sharp put Chicago back ahead at 2-1 just under 4 minutes later
on a one-time shot from the left circle. He ripped the puck past
Niemi after taking a pinpoint cross-ice feed from Marcus Kruger.

Toews extended it to 3-1 at 3:39 of the third with his
team-leading 10th goal by converting a rebound of his own shot.

Niemi stopped Toews' first attempt after the Chicago captain
skated out of the right corner, but the rebound dropped inches
from the goal line. Toews skated around a scrum at the edge of
the crease and tucked in the loose puck.

With Niemi down on the ice and out of the net, Versteeg
converted a rebound of Brandon's Saad shot with 4:50 left in the
third to make it 4-1.

Sharp was awarded the penalty shot with 1:11 left after being
pulled down by Marc-Edouard Vlasic on a breakaway. He fired high
over Niemi score on a penalty shot for the first time in five
chances with Chicago

NOTES: The Blackhawks placed G Nikolai Khabibulin on injured
reserve with a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday's 7-2 loss
in Nashville. Chicago called up rookie Antti Raanta from
Rockford of the AHL to back up Crawford. Raanta was signed as a
free agent from Finland last summer and was 7-5-0 with a 2.83
goals-against average in 14 games with Rockford. ... Chicago RW
Marian Hossa missed his second game with a lower-body injury.
Coach Joel Quenneville hopes Hossa will be able to play Tuesday
in Colorado.

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