His team had blown a three-goal lead against the NHL's front-runners. But Troy Brouwer was confident his team would win in overtime -- and he made it happen.
Brouwer scored 1:37 into the extra period on Thursday night to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks -- after the Hawks blew a 3-0 lead.
Dustin Byfuglien, Brouwer and Andrew Ladd scored in a 3:21 span of the first period to quiet the sellout crowd at the Shark Tank. But two goals by Joe Pavelski got the Sharks back into the game, and Manny Malhotra tied it 4:56 into the third.
But strangely, after blowing the lead, the Hawks were the better team.
"Toward the end of the third period, we were getting chances and we got some momentum," Brouwer said. "We really felt like we were going to win that game going into overtime."
They got the extra point when Niklas Hjalmarsson broke up a play in his own zone and sent Brouwer on a 2-on-2 rush. Brouwer raced down the left side, cut to the middle as defenseman Jason Demers fell, and ripped a high wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov, snapping San Jose's five-game winning streak.
"We found a way to battle back," Pavelski said. "We just didn't finish."
Pavelski agreed that the Hawks seemed to take back the momentum after the Sharks had tied the game.
"We worked so hard -- we battled on the forecheck," he said. "Once we tied it up, we kind of sat back. We should have continued on."
The Hawks improved to 5-2-0 on an eight-game road trip that concludes Saturday in Carolina. But the point the Sharks earned was enough to keep them on top of the overall NHL standings with 79 points, one more than Chicago. The Hawks finished the season series with three wins in four meetings against the Sharks -- including both trips to San Jose; Chicago also won 7-2 on Nov. 25.
"There's a lot of hockey left," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Let's see how things shake out."
Chicago wasted no time taking the crowd out of the game -- at least for a while.
Byfuglien opened the scoring at 5:02, blasting a one-timer past Nabokov from the slot after Patrick Kane carried the puck down the right side, taking the defense with him to create space. Brouwer scored 28 seconds later, ripping a wrister past Nabokov from the right circle after being sprung by Jonathan Toews' diagonal pass from the neutral zone.
"We had the start we wanted," Brouwer said.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan took his timeout, but it didn't help, at least not right away, as Ladd tapped in a pass from Patrick Sharp at 8:23 for a 3-0 lead. Sharp collected the rebound of Marian Hossa's shot and slid it to Ladd, who was wide-open at the top of the crease.
"The mistakes we made ended up in the back of our net," San Jose's Patrick Marleau said.
It was an especially tough start for Blake, the Sharks' captain, who was on the ice for all three Chicago goals.
"The start was unacceptable," McLellan said. "We're all going to talk about how hard we fought and that we worked our way back into the game, but that start was unacceptable -- the mistakes we made in the first five minutes of the game -- that's not a characteristic of ours."
But after San Jose killed off a penalty, Pavelski got one back at 11:52 by going to the net and banging home Marc-Edouard Vlasic's pass from the lower left circle.
The goal gave the Sharks some life. They dominated the second period, outshooting Chicago 19-10, but were kept off the scoreboard by Huet until Pavelski's 60-foot straightaway power-play blast went through a screen and into the net at 17:40.
"They're a skilled team," Brouwer said. "You're not going to keep them down very often. You just kind of have to limit the damage."
The Sharks continued to press at the start of the third period and were rewarded when Blake teed up a shot and saw Malhotra get a piece of it with his stick, enough to get it past Huet.
But Quenneville called his timeout, settled down his team, and Chicago had the better of the chances the rest of the way. The Hawks got a late power play when Joe Thornton was called for delay of game with 1:27 to play for covering the puck, and Marian Hossa nearly won it when he split the defense and beat Nabokov, only to hit the post with 16 seconds left.
The Sharks killed off the rest of the penalty in OT, but never threatened before Brouwer scored to win it.
"We fought back, and we're proud of that," McLellan said. "But you're not going to win many games against good teams in this League with that kind of start."