Hawks master their shorthand

Tribune staff reporter

The Blackhawks are taking this short-handed thing to the extreme.

With their lineup depleted do to injuries and a flu-bug that the team earlier in the day, the Hawks stayed in short-handed mode by scoring twice while down a man on the ice in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night in front of 19,289 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"I wish I could come up with an answer," said Patrick Sharp, who scored his league-leading fifth short-hander in the opening minute of the third period that proved to be the game-winner, about the Hawks' success down a man. "We just have good team speed up front [and] both goals were a result of that. Two loose pucks and our forwards were flying up the ice and we had two scoring chances and they both went in."

With the Flames on the power play after rookie Jake Dowell was sent off for tripping, former Hawks defenseman Adrian Aucoin couldn't corral a pass and Sharp picked it up, skated in on goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and put in his team-leading 11th goal of the season at the 31-second mark of the third period.

It was the Hawks' 10th short-handed goal of the season and seventh on the road, both of which lead the NHL. It came despite Sharp's penalty-killing partner Rene Bourque on the injured list with a broken thumb suffered last Saturday in a victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

"We missed Bourque out there, definitely," Sharp said. "But Jonathan Toews stepped up and played great. Dowell in his first NHL game really helped us on the penalty killing with some blocked shots and of course the goal."

The goal Sharp referred to was the Hawks' first of the game and it was scored by Dowell--short-handed, of course.

Dowell and Kris Versteeg were called up from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Sunday after Bourque's injury and Jason Williams was forced to the sidelines with a strained groin. Adding Dowell to the penalty-killing unit paid dividends as he gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead with 5:29 remaining in the second period. With David Koci in the box for holding, Dowell picked up a loose puck inside the blue line, broke in on Kiprusoff and put in a forehand shot for his first career goal.

"I couldn't be happier," Dowell said. "To play my first NHL game and to get my first NHL goal, I know it's clichi, but every kid dreams about doing that and to finally be able to say I got that is a great feeling."

The Hawks had five rookies in the lineup, a defenseman playing his first game at forward as a professional and three new line combinations. In addition to injuries to Martin Havlat, Kevyn Adams, Bourque and Williams, veteran Sergei Samsonov was idled by the flu, forcing head coach Denis Savard to juggle his lines and start Dustin Byfuglien, normally a defenseman, on wing. Backup goaltender Patrick Lalime is also suffering from the flu and spent the game in the Hawks dressing room.

The Flames tied it 1-1 on a power-play goal by Jarome Iginla, his 13th of the season with 7:43 remaining in the second period.

Nikolai Khabibulin was strong in goal for the Hawks, making 30 saves. The Hawks were out shot 31-14 by the Flames.

"We got great goaltending from 'Khabby,' " Savard said. "We found a way [to win], that's the most important thing."

The victory improved the Hawks' record to 12-8-1 and 2-1-1 on this six-game road trip, which continues Saturday in Edmonton.

"We're just having fun," Sharp said. "We're a young team. Winning is new to us, but it's a lot of fun and it's contagious. We just want to keep playing every night."

Copyright © 2018, CT Now