RALEIGH, N.C. -- In a sport full of athletes who are quick to deflect too much praise or credit, Chicago forward Patrick Sharp couldn't escape being the focus after the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Sure, he scored the first goal of the game, chasing down an aerial pass at the Carolina blue line before scoring his second of the season at 7:56 of the opening period. Then he scored the only goal of the shootout to secure a 3-2 win and lift Chicago to a 4-1-1 record. That's more than enough reason to be the media's go-to guy after the game.
But the goals were just the start.
Sharp's big night came just two days after the birth of his second daughter, making Tuesday night's game one of those occasions where life and hockey intersect at a place that transcends a particular game.
"My head wasn't really in the game for the first part of it," Sharp admitted. "But it's a special time for the family and I'm looking forward to getting home."
That's because Sharp felt a little paternal concern after leaving his growing family behind in Chicago.
"I felt a little guilty leaving Sunday and going to practice on Monday with my wife in the hospital," he said. "She was in great hands. Her mother is here taking care of our first daughter and our dog and the house."
With things in reasonable order back home, Sharp was free to contribute in a game the Blackhawks needed him.
After Michal Handzus fed him a perfect home-run pass for the first goal -- the 200th of Sharp's career -- Marian Hossa made it 2-0 at 10:18 when Carolina defenseman Brett Bellemore whiffed on a clearing pass in the slot. Hossa lifted a backhand past Cam Ward, who was moving right to left on the play.
At that point, it looked like Chicago might run away with the game. The Blackhawks outshot the Hurricanes 15-5 in the first period and controlled play for long stretches.
Chicago led 2-0 after two periods before the Hurricanes broke through in the third. Alexander Semin cut the lead in half at 3:54 when he gathered the rebound of Eric Staal's shot and beat goaltender Corey Crawford over the glove. With 7:27 remaining in regulation, Ron Hainsey's low blast from the left point found its way inside the far post to tie the game at 2-2.
"You have to give them credit," Hossa said. "They came back and showed they're a really good hockey team with lots of skilled players. We let off the gas a little bit and they scored and all of a sudden the game was tied."
Heading to overtime insured the Blackhawks a fifth straight one-goal game.
"That third goal, we were all looking to get that," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It might have made things a little bit more comfortable."
Instead, things grew more unsettling as the teams went to overtime. The Blackhawks had to kill a 4-on-3 Carolina power play in which the Hurricanes tested Crawford with four shots. At one point, defenseman Brent Seabrook lost his stick, leaving the Blackhawks in a pinch until Crawford was able to freeze the puck.
Then came the shootout, in which Crawford gave Nathan Gerbe, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner no daylight. Sharp, the third shooter for Chicago, came in deliberately against Ward before deking and sliding the puck inside the left post.
"Some nights you are not happy with the execution, but we had no time out late to give them a rest," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "The chances were there, we tried it, and Crawford came up with some big saves. It was just a really entertaining, hard-fought game that these two teams played."
For Sharp, the shootout goal was a nice bonus, since he doesn't think of himself a strong alternative in the tiebreaker.
"I haven't been very good in the shootout the last couple years," Sharp said. "I looked at that over the summer and thought about some possible moves with [Patrick] Kane a little bit. [Skating in slowly] was actually by design. I don't have hands like Kaner, so the slower I go, the better mine get."
On a night when Sharp was the difference in the game, he was glad to share a few personal moments.
How does it feel to score 200 NHL goals?
"It's something I'll look at when I'm all said and done," he said. "Hopefully I've got a lot more than 200. I'd like to play a lot more years and score a lot more goals."
And what about the puck from No. 200th?
"I'll send it back home to my parents in Thunder Bay [Ontario]. They have all my milestone pucks."
Then Sharp volunteered that he's already planned another keepsake.
"I kept the shootout puck," he said. "That's for my daughter, and the stick will be with her as well. Start spoiling her early."
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