NHL Playoffs, Blackhawks v. Sharks, Game 3: Sharks strike first, Hawks tie it up

Hawks5.jpgEastern Conference Finals, Game 3, 2nd Intermission

Chicago Blackhawks 1, San Jose Sharks 1

Blackhawks lead series 2-0

The San Jose Sharks have been able to score on Antti Niemi so far this series, but they have yet to truly exert their offensive force on the Blackhawks. While we always expected great defensive play from the Blackhawks, the inspired play of Niemi in the Conference finals was something that surprised nearly everyone, including the Sharks.

In Game 3 in Chicago, a critical contest for the Sharks as they try to avoid the nearly insurmountable 0-3 series deficit, the Sharks have played much more aggressive and much more confident and it finally paid off in the second period. The Blackhawks put their share of pressure on the Sharks in the first 20 minutes, but Evgeni Nabokov was able to do what he couldn’t in the first two games: makes the big saves when his team needed it the most.

His big saves gave the Sharks the chance they needed, and they responded with heavy pressure to open the second and forced the Blackhawks to take two penalties, giving the Sharks a lengthy 5-on-3 chance. It looked as if the Sharks would come away incredibly frustrated as Niemi turned away several prime chances until Patrick Marleau was able to finally sneak a puck past Niemi’s glove to give the Sharks a much needed 1-0 lead.

With the way the Sharks have been endlessly frustrated by the Hawks and Niemi despite some actual decent play in two games, you would have thought the Sharks would have been invigorated by getting the lead. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks proved once again just how strong a team they are and tied it up just three minutes later on a power play goal of their own.

Once again showing that he is the early Conn Smythe favorite, Jonathan Toews completed a brilliant no-look, cross-crease pass to Patrick Sharp for a slam dunk goal on Evgeni Nabokov. The Hawks used the goal to wake from a bit of an early stupor and responded with some heavy pressure of their own the rest of the period, and only a couple of sprawling saves by Nabokov kept the Hawks from taking what would have been a demoralizing lead over the Sharks.

Heading into an incredibly important third period, the Sharks have a great chance to at least build on a solid 40 minutes and hope to steal an important win in Chicago. Somehow they’ll have to find a way to solve Antti Niemi, who continues to play at a much higher level than I ever thought he would the deeper the Blackhawks moved into the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Hawks, Evgeni Nabokov has finally been able to do his part.

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    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

    Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


    Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

    While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

    The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?