Sharp, Toews lead Blackhawks past Avalanche 7-2

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2013 at 10:56 pm •  Published: December 27, 2013
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CHICAGO (AP) — After being kidded about being one of the old men on his team, Chicago's Patrick Sharp celebrated his 32nd birthday in style on the ice Friday night.

Sharp scored three goals for his third career hat trick and set up one of Jonathan Toews' two scores to lead the Blackhawks past the Colorado Avalanche 7-2.

Toews added two assists as both he and Sharp finished with four points. Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg also scored for the Blackhawks, whose league-leading offense powered them to a second straight win and improved them to 7-1-1 in their past nine.

Sharp has 21 goals this season and 10 in his past nine games. He scored twice in Chicago's previous game, a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Monday.

"It's special any time you can do it (score a hat trick)," Sharp said. "But on a birthday, where some of the guys are giving me heat for being an old-timer, it makes it feel even better.

"Tonight, I was getting set up with some good plays, and once you start scoring the way we were tonight, you get a good feeling and you just want to keep that going."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw too.

"(Sharp) had a great game," Quenneville said. "He's had his best season to date. Consistency, both sides of the puck."

More impressive than Sharp's hat trick — notched in an eight-minute span late in the first and early in the second periods — was how he assisted on Toews' second goal of the game against the Avalanche. That score put Chicago ahead 5-0 midway through the second.

Colorado leading scorer Matt Duchene was bearing down on Chicago rookie Antti Raanta on a breakaway. But Sharp caught up to Duchene just as he was about to shoot, hooked his stick and stole the puck.

Sharp then turned deep in his zone and wheeled a pass to Toews down the ice on right wing. Toews moved in, faked and beat a helpless Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"It was unreal," Toews said. "He was just determined to get back there. Things turned around pretty quick."

The play left Duchene, Colorado's 22-year-old leading scorer, shaking his head — even if he had to slow down on the breakaway to settle a rolling puck.

"He just lifted my stick as I was shooting the puck," Duchene said. "We got puck watching, I guess, and it went back the other way.

"I had a lot of daylight on the blocker side of the net and thought I was just going to score. All of a sudden, three seconds later, it's in your net."

Giguere allowed seven goals through two periods on the Blackhawks' first 24 shots. Semyon Varlamov relieved him in the third and stopped all 13 he faced.

Colorado's Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog beat Raanta, who finished with 16 saves in his eighth straight start — all since Blackhawks top goalie Corey Crawford suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 8

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