Anthony Duclair dished a pair of assists and Jan Rutta scored in his return to the lineup as the Chicago Blackhawks topped the San Jose Sharks, 3-1, on Friday night. It’s the second straight win for the Blackhawks, which is the first time we’ve been able to say that since the end of January.
Duclair and Nick Schmaltz teamed up to lead the way for the Hawks with two points apiece. Their standout play came in the third period when Duclair stole the puck on a forecheck and made a perfect pass across the ice to set up Schmaltz, who celebrated his 22nd birthday by firing the puck into the open net for his 17th goal of the season.
The Sharks ended up finishing the game with a 43-35 lead in shots on goal, but Jean-Francois Berube stood up tall in his first ever start with the Blackhawks. He stopped 42 of 43 shots that came his way to earn his first NHL victory in over a year. It’s not often we’ve seen a goalie carry the team like this lately.
The defense didn’t have the best night despite the shutout, as the 43 shots allowed can attest, but they also avoided the egregious errors that have plagued them in past games. The pairing of Duncan Keith and Jordan Oesterle performed well beyond Timo Meier’s lone goal and Erik Gustafsson continues to be a solid presence in the lower half of the lineup. Connor Murphy and Brent Seabrook looked good early but gave way to some troubles in the third period.
Rutta also returned to the lineup for the first time in weeks and scored a goal, so he’s surely thrilled about that. Artem Anisimov scored the insurance empty-net goal to put the game away late.
The Sharks entered this game with five wins in their last seven games, so it’s a pretty nice victory by the Blackhawks. Next up for Chicago is a road matchup against the Blue Jackets in less than 24 hours before the team gets several days off.