|COL||0||1||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|CHI||3||4||0||(0 - 0)||7|
CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp has a knack for celebrating birthdays, and the Chicago Blackhawks made sure he had a night to remember on Friday night.
Sharp, who scored game-winning goals the day after each of his two daughters were born, treated himself to his third career hat trick and a four-point night on his 32nd birthday in Chicago's 7-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at United Center.
The performance came in front of Sharp's parents, wife and daughters.
"It was a fun Christmas with my girls, and it's kind of neat that my parents could see it," Sharp said. "They sat in the airport 15 hours [Thursday] waiting for a flight to come to Chicago, with delays and stuff, so it's special they could make it in for my birthday. I don't usually score too many goals when my dad's in the crowd. I don't know why, but it was nice to get [three] tonight."
The Blackhawks (27-7-6) also got two goals and two assists from captain Jonathan Toews, who missed a wide-open net in the first period and was stopped on a breakaway in the third to prevent an even bigger outing.
As it was, Chicago started a weekend back-to-back set against Central Division teams by paying back the Avalanche for a 5-1 loss Nov. 19 at Pepsi Center. The Blackhawks will be looking for their first win of the season against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, when they travel to Scottrade Center for the second time.
Chicago is 7-0-2 in the second games of their first nine back-to-back sets, and coach Joel Quenneville's light practice schedule might be part of the reason.
"We get a lot of rest around here with Joel," Sharp said. "He does a great job of keeping guys fresh and healthy. I feel like we've got a veteran team that knows how to use those days off and it's certainly to our advantage."
Colorado (23-11-3) still occupies third place in the Central, but sits 11 points back of the first-place Blackhawks. The Avalanche opted not to skate at home before flying to Chicago on Friday morning and it looked that way for most of the game.
They had all kinds of trouble keeping up with the Blackhawks, but Sharp was particularly vexing. The veteran left wing has 10 goals in his past nine games and continues to make a strong case for inclusion on Canada's Olympic roster for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Games.
He's scored five goals in the past two games and has 13 in the past 15. Sharp also has the backing of Toews, who's a sure thing to play for Canada after winning a gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
"I don't think that is even an option," Toews said of Sharp being left out. "He's shown everything he can do throughout his career since the last Olympics and throughout this season. I don't think there's any holes in his game. We've always known in this locker room that he's the type of player that deserves to play at that level and represent Team Canada, and he continues to prove it."
Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg also scored for the Blackhawks, while rookie goalie Antti Raanta (16 saves) improved to 9-1-2 overall and 7-1-2 since taking over the starting role for injured starter Corey Crawford (groin). Patrick Kane's assist on Handzus' goal in the second period extended his point streak to a career-high 13 games, which was mixed into a huge offensive night for his team.
Nine Blackhawks recorded at least a point and six had multi-point games, including Duncan Keith, who had three assists.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who took the loss and allowed all seven goals, had a rough night. Not only did his 1.96 goals-against average take a big hit, but he also got hit in the chin of his mask with 1:12 left in the second by a hard wrist shot from Brandon Bollig.
Giguere was replaced by Semyon Varlamov to start the third.
Prior to the game first-year Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he expected the Blackhawks to win the Central Division again. Despite his team beating Chicago by four goals in that first meeting, Roy didn't flinch when talking up the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Less than two hours later, the Blackhawks played like the team he described.
It took only half of the first period for Chicago to crack the game open with three goals before the first intermission. Keith set up Sharp's first goal with a great pass from the neutral zone to Sharp standing just outside the Colorado blue line. Sharp rushed the puck into the zone and finished the play at 12:27 by snapping off a wrister from the right circle that beat Giguere to the far side.
Toews made it 2-0 at 18:03 with his first goal since Dec. 11 against the Philadelphia Flyers, before Sharp blasted his second of the game past Giguere at 19:18 to make it 3-0 and cap a power play, again set up by Keith and again to the net's far side.
It didn't take long for him to make the hats rain onto the ice in the second. Sharp followed up a point blast by Niklas Hjalmarsson (two assists) by backhanding a shot from the low slot through Erik Johnson's legs and off Giguere's left arm into the net 27 seconds into the period for his 21st goal.
Neither he nor the Blackhawks were finished.
Toews scored his second of the game at 8:21 of the second to make it 5-0, but it was Sharp's play at the other end of the ice that set it up. Swooping in behind Matt Duchene breaking in alone against Raanta, Sharp quickly lifted Duchene's stick, stole the puck and found Toews with an outlet pass heading the other way.
"I think that's a job for the top defense and top lines to match up against their top lines," said Colorado defenseman Ryan Wilson, who played for the first time after missing 22 games. "They played really well. They always seem to play good at home. We just came out with a bad, lackluster effort in the first and it just carried on."
Paul Stastny got the Avalanche on the scoreboard less than a minute later to make it 5-1, but the Blackhawks responded with the goals by Handzus and Versteeg to take a 7-1 lead into the third. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog completed the scoring at 7:37 of the third with his 11th of the season, but the Blackhawks were on cruise control.
|Patrick Sharp (19) ASST: Duncan Keith (31), Brent Seabrook (24)|
1 - 0 CHI
|Jonathan Toews (14) ASST: Marian Hossa (19), Niklas Hjalmarsson (13)|
2 - 0 CHI
|PPG - Patrick Sharp (20) ASST: Duncan Keith (32), Jonathan Toews (22)|
3 - 0 CHI
|Patrick Sharp (21) ASST: Niklas Hjalmarsson (14), Jonathan Toews (23)|
4 - 0 CHI
|Jonathan Toews (15) ASST: Patrick Sharp (19)|
5 - 0 CHI
|Paul Stastny (11) ASST: Gabriel Landeskog (15), Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (14)|
5 - 1 CHI
|Michal Handzus (4) ASST: Patrick Kane (28), Kris Versteeg (14)|
6 - 1 CHI
|Kris Versteeg (8) ASST: Duncan Keith (33), Michal Handzus (6)|
7 - 1 CHI
|Gabriel Landeskog (11) ASST: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (15)|
7 - 2 CHI
|Maxime Talbot Tripping against Kris Versteeg|
|Jamie McGinn Too many men/ice - bench|
|Niklas Hjalmarsson Holding the stick against Maxime Talbot|
|Michal Rozsival Delay of game|
|Tyson Barrie Holding against Brandon Saad|
|SA: 13||TOI: 20:00|
|Saves: 13||EV: 13 - 13|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 24||TOI: 40:00|
|Saves: 17||EV: 16 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 2|
|SV%: .708||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 18||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 16||EV: 14 - 16|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .889||SH: 0 - 0|