It's taken some time, but the Chicago Blackhawks finally figured out how to beat the San Jose Sharks.
The Hawks went 3-1-0 against the Sharks this season, though two of their wins were in overtime. They are 4-1-0 in the last five meetings after the Sharks won 13 in a row, beginning on Oct. 15, 2005, with a 4-3 win at San Jose and ending on Jan. 31, 2009, when Chicago won 4-2 at the Shark Tank.
It was Chicago's first season-series victory over the Sharks since 2001-02, when the Hawks went 2-1-1. Overall, San Jose is 37-23-5-6; the Blackhawks are 29-32-5-5 since the Sharks entered the NHL in 1991. San Jose is 19-11-3-2 at HP Pavilion and 17-12-2-4 at Chicago (they also won a neutral-site game at Sacramento, Calif.).
Chicago averaged 39.3 shots during the four-game season series to 24.5 for the Sharks. San Jose's penalty-killers kept Chicago scoreless on 13 power-play chances and scored a shorthanded goal, while the Hawks' PK unit surrendered three goals in 18 power-play chances -- but scored three shorthanded goals of their own.
The teams have never met in the playoffs.
Here's a look at their four meetings this season:
Nov. 15, 2009: San Jose 3 at Chicago 4 (OT)
The Hawks completed a 4-0-0 homestand by rallying from a 3-1 deficit before Brent Seabrook got the game-winner 41 seconds into overtime.
The Sharks grabbed their two-goal lead on goals 45 seconds apart by Jason Demers and Dany Heatley early in the second period. But Patrick Kane scored at 7:54 of the period and John Madden tied it at 18:41.
Seabrook won it when he took a pass from Jonathan Toews and beat Evgeni Nabokov from the slot.
"Down two against a top team like that, you're not very often going to come back and get (the victory)," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You've got to take advantage of home ice. We've been pretty effective to date."
Nov. 25, 2009: Chicago 7 at San Jose 2
Chicago stunned the sellout crowd at HP Pavilion and won their eighth in a row by scoring the game's first seven goals.
Marian Hossa, the Hawks' big free-agent acquisition during the summer, made a big impact in his Chicago debut by scoring twice -- including one of the Blackhawks' three shorthanded goals.
"It was nice for 'House' to come in and have a meaningful game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a good start to his Blackhawks career. I'll be interested in seeing how his line works out from here."
The Hawks led 7-0 before allowing two goals in the final four minutes.
"This is humbling," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "When you're not prepared to play and you're not alert, those things can happen, especially when you're playing, perhaps, the top team in the NHL."
Dec. 22, 2009: San Jose 3 at Chicago 2
The Sharks atoned for their humbling loss to the Hawks at home four weeks earlier thanks to Nabokov, who stopped 45 of 47 shots as San Jose survived a late Chicago comeback.
San Jose appeared to be comfortably in front when Demers scored 4:30 into the third period for a 3-1 lead. But that goal turned out to be the winner when Hossa scored with 1:50 to play -- part of a 21-shot third-period barrage by the Hawks, who lost despite outshooting San Jose 47-14.
"We basically robbed one here tonight and we can chalk that one up to Nabby," McLellan said.
Cristobal Huet, who came into the game off back-to-back 3-0 victories, made only 11 saves and was beaten by Heatley in the first period and Joe Thornton in the second.
"We outshot them, but we couldn't create the top, top chances," Hossa said. "We tried to shoot from bad angles and chaos in front of the net, but their goalie played well."
Jan. 28, 2010: Chicago 4 at San Jose 3 (OT)
The Blackhawks started the game as if they would repeat their performance in their previous visit to San Jose, but needed an overtime goal by Troy Brouwer after blowing a 3-0 lead.
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 6
SOG: 25 | +/-: -3
However, the Sharks had to scramble to force OT, and Chicago dominated the extra period Brouwer scored at 1:37.
The teams were already battling for the top spot in the Western Conference, and Brouwer knew there might be a lot more at stake the next times the teams met.
"For us to beat them in the playoffs we're going to have to beat them here," a prescient Brouwer said. "It gives us a little bit of confidence if we have to face them in the playoffs."