Jonathan Toews wasn't going to be denied in getting a piece of Joe Thornton.
The Blackhawks captain boarded his Sharks counterpart late in the first period and Toews then proceeded to shove Thornton seven times before the two finally dropped the gloves.
The third fight in Toews' career didn't do much to bolster his pugilistic reputation, but it did fire up his teammates and the Hawks rode the wave of emotion Friday night to a 4-1 victory over the Sharks' at the United Center.
"I felt that it was something I needed to do to stand up for myself," Toews said. "I'm glad I did it. I think it helped our team.
"The last handful of games, including last season, there is always some stuff going on, whether it's after the whistles or during the play. It just comes down to players maybe trying to get under your skin and testing you a little bit.
"If it gives your team energy, that's great. That's the effect … you're really trying to impose on your team."
Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson each had a goal and an assist, Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw scored and Ray Emery bested Antti Niemi in goal to extend the Hawks' points streak to start the season to 14 games. Duncan Keith and Jamal Mayers each added two assists as Hawks improved to 11-0-3 and are now within two of the NHL record of 16 games to start a season with at least one point that the Ducks set in 2006-07.
The loss was the Sharks' seventh consecutive after they began the season with a seven-game winning streak. Tim Kennedy scored for the Sharks but it wasn't enough in the Western Conference battle.
Toews and Thornton have a history, with a skirmish Feb. 10, 2012 in San Jose that Toews apparently never forgot. The sight of their captain flailing away at the much larger Thornton wasn't ideal for the Hawks, but they responded well, first killing off the Sharks' power play as a result of the four extra minutes in penalties given to Toews and then capping the sequence with Bolland scoring the opening goal.
Skating into the Sharks zone with Patrick Kane, Bolland took advantage of the room Kane created to draw defenders and fire a shot on Niemi that the former Hawks goalie stopped. But the rebound kicked right to Bolland and the center banged it in.
"A fight like that always fires up the team for sure," Hjalmarsson said. "We saw a real competitor. He's the heart of our team."
The Hawks got a fortunate bounce to take a 2-0 lead in the second. Kruger's dump-in from beyond the center line bounced toward Niemi and ricocheted behind the Sharks netminder to the crease where Kruger swooped in and tucked it into the net.
After Kennedy scored to cut the deficit, Shaw again extended the Hawks' lead to two goals when he banged away at a loose puck near the left post and finally chipped it past Niemi. Hjalmarsson capped the scoring when the defenseman's long shot eluded a screened Niemi.
"We're playing really solid defensively," Hjalmarsson said. "We're really comfortable in our end. Our goalies have being playing unbelievable so far. And … we're doing our job as D-men back there and our forwards are back checking hard and getting pucks deep and scoring goals."
With their 14th consecutive game to open the season with at least one point, the Hawks tied the 1943-44 Canadiens for third-longest streak in league history. The 1984-85 Oilers are next with 15.
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Author: Mama Liga News
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