Sharp's shooting propels Blackhawks

Field HockeySportsDeathRyan SmythChicago BlackhawksNikolai KhabibulinEdmonton Oilers

All season the Blackhawks have struggled to score goals at even strength or on the power play.

Put a Hawks player in the penalty box, however, and it's a different story. For whatever crazy reason, the Hawks are among the league leaders in short-handed goals, tied for eighth in that department.

Sunday they scored their 12th short-handed goal of the season and it turned into the game-winner as the Hawks beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 for their second straight victory at the United Center.

Patrick Sharp did the honors for his 20th of the season and his third short-handed. Sharp has scored 12 goals in his last 22 games but said the 20-goal mark isn't overly special.

"It's not what I play for," he said. "I don't judge my play by goals and assists. But when you're sitting on 19, you definitely want to get that goal. I want to be a guy that helps the team in all situations."

The goal came early in the third period with Jason Williams in the penalty box. Martin Havlat forced a turnover at the Hawks' blue line from Edmonton's Ales Hemsky. Havlat pushed the puck ahead to Sharp, who had a clear breakaway on goalie Dwayne Roloson.

"What's really good in the last two games is some of our best players have made great plays defensively," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "[Havlat] made a great play on the short-handed goal."

The Hawks have doubled their output of last season in short-handed goals. Sharp's three is tops on the team. Bryan Smolinski also scored three before being traded to Vancouver. The Hawks have just 43 goals on the power play.

"We're pretty aggressive on our penalty kill," Sharp said. "You see teams that are passive in the defensive zone and one thing that [assistant coach] Marc Hardy wants us to do is be aggressive and come up the loose pucks."

Sharp's shorty finished off an impressive penalty-killing segment for the Hawks. With the game still tied at 1-1, Edmonton had a two-man advantage for 1 minute 34 seconds that they were able to kill off. The Hawks killed off all five Edmonton power plays on the day.

"That was a big kill," Savard said. "[Nikolai Khabibulin] made some big saves."

Edmonton took the lead at 7:12 of the first period when Raffi Torres beat Adrian Aucoin and knocked in a perfect centering pass from Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

The Hawks tied it at 6:16 of the second when Tuomo Ruutu bulled his way to the front of the Edmonton goal and stuffed in a pass from Radim Vrbata. It was Ruutu's first goal in seven games.

One-timers

The victory was the first in five games for Khabibulin, whose last victory came March 15 against Los Angeles. … Nikita Alexeev was back in the lineup after being scratched for the last three games. … Peter Bondra missed his third straight game and seventh of the last nine, still bothered by a shoulder injury suffered in December. … Former Hawk Ethan Moreau has missed all but seven games this season with a separated shoulder suffered in October and Oilers center Jarret Stoll has missed the last 27 games with a concussion. … Since trading Ryan Smyth on March 1, the Oilers have scored 20 goals in 15 games.

rfoltman@tribune.com

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