Patrick Sharp 'emotional' during tribute as Stars stave off Blackhawks


Patrick Sharp 'emotional' during tribute as Stars stave off Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp got a taste for what his return to Chicago would be like when the Blackhawks and Dallas Stars squared off at the United Center in the final preseason game on Oct. 3. But it was still emotional for everyone watching Sharp on the visiting side of a meaningful game in February.

"Tough start to the game to be honest with you," Sharp said following a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks on Thursday night. "My legs were a little shaky, which was funny. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I think as the game went on, got a nice cheer from the crowd, that made me feel pretty good, then it was just a regular hockey game after that."
It didn't feel like a regular hockey game until Sharp was properly welcomed back, something the Blackhawks rightfully held off on doing until their first regular season meeting instead of in the preseason.
During the first TV timeout of the game, the Blackhawks displayed a lengthy video montage on the video board — and later for Johnny Oduya during a separate tribute — thanking Sharp for his contributions to the organization, which featured moments from his rookie season to helping bring three Stanley Cups to a city that starved for just one prior to 2010.
A sold-out crowd of 22,051 gave the former Blackhawk a standing ovation that nearly blew the United Center roof off.
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"Very special," Sharp said of the crowd's reaction. "First class by a first-class organization. I've said many times, I've enjoyed my 10 years here in Chicago. Very proud of what we accomplished on and off the ice, got a lot of good friends there on the other side. It was definitely emotional to watch that. Lot of footage when I was younger, just kind of makes you think of all the good times over the years here."
Many of those good times involved late-game heroics through late-period surges, something Sharp helped ignite in a young Blackhawks team. Only this time, he found out what it felt like being on the other side.
"Yeah, I've seen that a few times," Sharp said of the Blackhawks, who out-shot the Stars 21-2 in the third period. "Been a part of a few of those, when the (defense) gets active and they're hanging on to pucks, making plays. Tough to kind of withstand, but credit our goaltender. He made some big saves to keep that two-goal lead."
For Sharp, he was one of three players — along with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — on the 2015 championship team to have been there for both the bad times of finishing near the bottom of the standings with the Blackhawks and the good of enjoying the top of the mountain three times.
Now with the Stars, Sharp is looking to instill that backs-against-the-wall mentality and bring the kind of experience a young team looking to break through needs, which is something Stars coach Lindy Ruff and teammates noticed immediately.
"He knows how to win and he knows how to act when you lose, too," Ruff said.
"He's made us better-looking," a chuckling Kari Lehtonen, who made 44 saves in the win, said before adding: "He's been there, done that. People listen to him. He does all the right things. He works hard and brings some great skill too. He's been a great addition."
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Sharp credited a smooth transition to the team's already tight-knit group when he first joined Dallas.

"It's an easy team to fit in to," Sharp said before the game. "Great locker room, they're well-coached, they're having a lot of fun on an off the ice, it's great to be a part of. We've had a good season up until this point, but ultimately we're going to be defined by how well we play down the stretch."
The Stars had won four of their last five games entering Thursday night's contest, but a 5-1 shellacking by Chicago over the weekend in their own building left a sour taste in their mouth. 
A few players, including captain Jamie Benn, called it "embarrassing."
They responded by jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on Thursday, thanks to a hat trick by Patrick Eaves, which chased Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford, who hadn't allowed four goals in a game since Dec. 29.
"Our team was fired up," Sharp said. "Playing a team like Chicago, especially what happened last time, our guys were certainly ready to play. Not often you score four on (Crawford) like that, but great start, thought we played pretty well after that."
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With the win, the Stars pulled within a point for the Central Division lead on the Blackhawks with three games in hand, a task Sharp never lost sight of heading into the matchup.
"First couple games against the Hawks was difficult to play in," Sharp said. "A little emotional, a little weird out there, but some valuable points on the line so I'm sure those feelings will go away as the season goes on."
Not only was it a special day for Sharp, who also played his 800th career game in a stadium he played a bulk of them in, but his entire family as well after they got to spend the day with him in Chicago. That included his dad, who tagged along on the Stars' father's trip this week and may have had more fun in the return than Sharp.
"I know my dad's having a great time," Sharp said. "He thinks he runs the United Center. I see him going around shaking everyone's hand and seeing old friends from the Hawks, so he's having a great time as well."
While the day was certainly a memorable one for Sharp, the story could get better if the two Central Division foes meet down the line in the postseason, which is a strong possibility.
"I'm sure. Our team is a younger team. We're getting better," he said. "We feel like if we want to get to a place where we want to be, Chicago is going to be in the way at the end of the season. It's just one game, many more battles down the road, and it should get more and more intense as we go."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."