Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thought about playing rookie goalie Lars Johansson against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night. Then Scott Darling said he wanted to make his ninth straight start, and the debate was over.
Darling had 33 saves, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Patrick Kane scored in the third period, and the streaking Blackhawks beat the Sharks 4-1 for their fifth consecutive victory.
Darling improved to 6-2-1 since Corey Crawford was sidelined by an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3. He showed signs of fatigue the past couple games, including Saturday night's 6-4 victory at St. Louis, but Quenneville wanted to stay with what has been working so well lately and Darling wanted the net.
It worked out quite well for Chicago, which has won six of seven overall.
"Sure, it's tiring but I knew coming home, getting a good night's sleep and no pregame skate, I'd have the energy in the tank to go," Darling said. "I don't really try to twist Joel's arm in any way at all. I just told him I wanted to play and that was that. He told me I was playing."
Joe Pavelski scored for San Jose, which settled for a 3-1 road trip after coming to Chicago with a four-game win streak. Martin Jones finished with 22 stops, but faltered a bit in the third.
"We felt like we played a pretty good game early on — it gets away a little at the end — but it was definitely a game that was there for us," Pavelski said.
The division leaders in the Western Conference were tied at 1 when Hinostroza won a faceoff for Chicago and Hartman whipped the puck right by Jones on the stick side at 6:59. It was Hartman's first goal since Nov. 25 at Anaheim, ending an 11-game drought.
Hinostroza then got his third of the season when he shot it through Jones' legs at 17:40 on a break with Marian Hossa. Hinostroza also scored Saturday night.
"For us young guys, it's felt like it's hockey again for a while now," Hartman said. "It's nice to be contributing, helping the team win."
Kane added an empty-netter as Chicago improved to 13-2-3 at home. Duncan Keith scored his first goal of the season in the second, and Artemi Panarin had two assists while extending his point streak to five games.
"Our last three games are very comparable, where we had our best period in the third, had our best production as well," Quenneville said.
San Jose jumped in front when Pavelski deflected Brent Burns' long wrist shot past Darling at 1:13 of the second. It looked as if the puck also might have gone off the stick of Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson on its way to the net.
It was Pavelski's third goal in four games and No. 11 on the year.
The Sharks then started buzzing around the Blackhawks' end. Patrick Marleau got open for a tip in front, but Darling was there. Chris Tierney shot it off the left post with about 4:45 left in the period.
Chicago picked up the tying goal when Keith drove a pass from Panarin past Jones from just inside the blue line at 16:49.
"I thought the second period was probably the difference in the game," coach Peter DeBoer said. "To come out 1-1 after we played the way we did, I thought we deserved a little better. If we find a way to get another one going into the third, maybe it's a different game, but to their credit their goalie was excellent in the second period and weathered the storm."
NOTES: Sharks C Melker Karlsson was helped off the ice 3:05 into third. He slipped and fell, and then got hit in the head by Blackhawks F Tyler Motte behind the San Jose net. "I think he's OK, but we'll see tomorrow," DeBoer said. ... Crawford skated again before the game and could return Friday against Colorado. "He was out there today with some players, so he got some good work again today," Quenneville said. ... Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov was sidelined by an upper-body injury. He is day to day. ... Pavelski has 30 points in 34 career games against Chicago.
Sharks: Host Calgary on Tuesday night.
Blackhawks: Host Ottawa on Tuesday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap