If there was any doubt that Scott Darling couldn't handle the workload that comes with being a No. 1 goaltender, he dismissed them on Sunday.
In his ninth straight start — and second in as many nights — Darling delivered again by stopping 33 of 34 shots, including 27 of 28 in the final two periods, in the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said before Sunday's game that the coaching staff had a "good discussion" about whether or not to give Darling a rest in favor of Lars Johansson.
It's a good thing they didn't.
Darling was sharp from the get-go and improved his home record to 6-1-1 this season one night after he allowed four goals that ignited some speculation that he was fatigued.
"That many games and traveling and all that stuff, it catches up to you," Darling said after the win. "But we work hard to be ready for that stuff. Mentally, it’s tiring, too. But the only game I felt like I didn’t really bring it was last night, let in two bad goals.
"Sometimes that’s all you need to just start over and have an off game and we were lucky to get the win and you can kind of reset it, get it out of the way and move forward."
The victory extended the Blackhawks' winning streak to five games, making it the second time they've won at least five in a row this season.
In what was expected to be an entertaining bout against the NHL's first-place team and the reigning Western Conference champions, the Blackhawks and Sharks got off to a sluggish start.
San Jose was heading into Sunday's contest playing their fourth road game in six nights while Chicago was on the second of a back-to-back. It showed.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
After a scoreless and uneventful first period, things began to heat up. Sort of.
The Sharks, who hadn't recorded a shot on goal in the final 12:39 of the first period, jumped out in front 73 seconds in the second when Joe Pavelski redirected Brent Burns' shot from the point, which isn't the first time
The Blackhawks, who overcame four one-goal deficits in last night's 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues, did the same again when Duncan Keith blasted home his first goal of the season with 3:11 left in the period.
"It was good," Keith said of getting his first goal out of the way with. "Obviously it was a while, so it was nice to finally get one and contribute to a big win against a good team."
Ryan Hartman broke the 1-1 tie after he snapped home a wrist shot off an offensive zone faceoff, giving the Blackhawks their first lead of the game early in the third period. It turned out to be the game-winner, his second of the season in that department.
Vinnie Hinostroza iced the game when he snuck a shot past Martin Jones five-hole, and Patrick Kane padded the lead with an empty-netter.
It's the second straight game Hinostroza scored at a crucial moment, and he received some praise from the coach that showed faith in him to step up in Artem Anisimov's absence.
"He made a good shot. I think that every game, or every shift is gonna be different," Quenneville said of Hinostroza. "I liked his speed out there today and I think he gives us that dimension where there’s some offense to his game, and some quickness. Working in an all-around game is something that’s a work in progress.
"Certainly, he has the ability to make plays, and score goals and add an element of speed to our team.”
The Blackhawks strengthened their season record to 22-8-4, and remain atop the NHL with 48 points.