Sharp, Toews lead Blackhawks past Avalanche
CHICAGO – After being kidded about being one of the old men on his team, Patrick Sharp celebrated his 32nd birthday in style on the ice Friday night.
Sharp scored three goals for his third career hat trick and set up one of Jonathan Toews' two scores to lead the Blackhawks past the Colorado Avalanche, 7-2.
Toews added two assists as both he and Sharp finished with four points. Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg also scored for the Blackhawks, whose league-leading offense powered them to a second straight win and improved them to 7-1-1 in their past nine.
Sharp has 21 goals this season and 10 in his past nine games. He scored twice in Chicago's previous game, a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Monday.
"It's special any time you can do it (score a hat trick)," Sharp said. "But on a birthday, where some of the guys are giving me heat for being an old-timer, it makes it feel even better.
"Tonight, I was getting set up with some good plays, and once you start scoring the way we were tonight, you get a good feeling and you just want to keep that going."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw too.
"(Sharp) had a great game," Quenneville said. "He's had his best season to date. Consistency, both sides of the puck."
More impressive than Sharp's hat trick — notched in an eight-minute span late in the first and early in the second periods — was how he assisted on Toews' second goal of the game against the Avalanche. That score put Chicago ahead 5-0 midway through the second.
Colorado leading scorer Matt Duchene was bearing down on Chicago rookie Antti Raanta on a breakaway. But Sharp caught up to Duchene just as he was about to shoot, hooked his stick and stole the puck.
Sharp then turned deep in his zone and wheeled a pass to Toews down the ice on right wing. Toews moved in, faked and beat a helpless Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
"It was unreal," Toews said. "He was just determined to get back there. Things turned around pretty quick."
The play left Duchene, Colorado's 22-year-old leading scorer, shaking his head — even if he had to slow down on the breakaway to settle a rolling puck.
"He just lifted my stick as I was shooting the puck," Duchene said. "We got puck watching, I guess, and it went back the other way.
"I had a lot of daylight on the blocker side of the net and thought I was just going to score. All of a sudden, three seconds later, it's in your net."
Giguere allowed seven goals through two periods on the Blackhawks' first 24 shots. Semyon Varlamov relieved him in the third and stopped all 13 he faced.
Colorado's Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog beat Raanta, who finished with 16 saves in his eighth straight start — all since Blackhawks top goalie Corey Crawford suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 8
Patrick Kane, Chicago's leading scorer, had an assist to extend his point streak to a career-high 13 games. Kane has seven goals and 15 assists in his streak, and at least one point in all but one of his past 25 games.
The Blackhawks took charge in the second half of the first period and led 3-0 after 20 minutes.
"It felt like we were playing in the wrong league there for a little bit," Duchene said. "We were down before 3-0 before we knew what hit us and the game was pretty much over at that point."
Sharp opened the scoring at 12:27 of the first to cap a sprint from the Colorado blue line. He took a pass from Duncan Keith, gained a step on Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda then fired a low shot past Giguere from 10 feet.
Toews made it 2-0 with 1:57 left in the first when he swept in a rebound from the right side of the net after Marian Hossa had skated through the crease with the puck.
Sharp's second goal, a power-play score 1:15 later, extended it to 3-0. He connected from the top of the right circle with Andrew Shaw screening Giguere.
Sharp completed his hat trick and made it 4-0 just 27 seconds into the second. His backhand attempt on a rebound of Niklas Hjalmarsson's shot from the point struck Giguere, but continued into the net.
Toews' second goal, set up by Sharp's spectacular play, made it 5-0 at 8:21.
"That was the story of the night for us, to be honest with you," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "You're going a breakaway and all of sudden the puck goes the other way and it's a breakaway on the other side and they score a nice goal."
Stastny backhanded in a rebound of his own close-in shot at 9:07 to get Colorado on the board at 5-1.
Set up by Kane's nifty pass, Handzus tapped in a goal with 6:30 left in the second to make it 6-1. Versteeg added to the rout when he whipped in a shot from the slot with 2:12 left in the period.
Landeskog scored on a breakaway at 7:37 of the third to complete the scoring.
NOTES: Chicago's Duncan Keith had three assists in the game and leads NHL defenseman with 33. ... Sharp has four multiple-goal games this season. ... Duchene, just 22, played in his 300th NHL game. ... Toews ended a five-game goal drought. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kane is the first NHL player to record multiple points streaks of more than 10 games in the same season since 2005-06, when Jaromir Jagr did it. ... Colorado D Cory Sarich was a scratch. ... The United Center crowd of 22,201 was a season high.