If Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s wish list for the trade deadline included a left winger to play on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, he might have to consider that role to be filled.
Viktor Stalberg is playing like he has no intention of giving that job away.
It was a dominating night for the Hawks’ top line, with Stalberg and Toews each getting a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win over San Jose at the United Center.
Stalberg has 5 goals in the last four games and 14 for the season.
“He’s playing unbelievable,” said Kane, who had an assist and was robbed of a goal by Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. “I came off and told him great shifts a bunch of times because he was stripping pucks, getting pucks back for us, giving us the puck in good positions to make plays.”
Stalberg has been one of the Hawks’ better players for the last month.
“I thought tonight was as good as you’d want him to play,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He sustained pucks, came out of the puck area with the puck protected. He was strong on the puck and had speed and energy. He created separation and room for Kaner and Tazer.”
Stalberg thought it was the best he, Toews and Kane have played together all season. “It seems like we’re getting better and better playing together,” Stalberg said. “I don’t even know if they had a shot against us all game, and it seemed like we had chances every shift. We could have had 4, 5 or 6 goals tonight.”
Kane, with no goals in six games and just 3 in his last 27, thought for sure his one-timer was past Niemi in the first period. But his former teammate flashed his glove and snagged the shot.
“I thought I was going to get off the bench, go to the locker room and take my equipment off,” Kane joked. “Hopefully it’ll come soon.”
Niemi made 36 saves to keep his team in it.
“We’re not overly flattered by the final score,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
It was a big Western Conference win for the Hawks, who jumped back into sole possession of first place in the conference and moved 5 points ahead of San Jose.
First-period goals by Dave Bolland and Stalberg made it 2-0, but the Sharks scored twice in the first 2:08 of the second.
Toews scored his 24th goal at 7:06 of the second period on a feed from Kane to put the Hawks ahead to stay.
Rookie Andrew Shaw made it 4-2 at 2:37 of the third period, and the Hawks’ needed his goal.
Down by 1 and 1:07 to play, the Sharks got a power play and pulled Niemi for a 6-on-4 advantage. But Corey Crawford made several big stops in the final frantic minutes behind teammates Bolland, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.
For Shaw it was his fourth goal in seven games since coming up from Rockford. He also had 5 shots, 3 hits and was 6-0 on faceoffs, playing almost 17 minutes and drawing praise from both coaches.
“He had a special game,” Quenneville said.
“I thought the Shaw kid had a great game,” McLellan said. “He outdid our group, there’s no doubt about it.”