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Blackhawks 7, Avalanche 2

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CHICAGO -- Right winger Patrick Sharp became the first player in Chicago Blackhawks history to score a hat trick on his birthday, scoring three goals and an assist on his 32nd birthday Friday as his team routed the Colorado Avalanche 7-2 at the United Center.

Sharp became the second Blackhawks player to score a hat trick this season, the other being center and team captain Jonathan Toews (Oct. 25 vs. Ottawa). With its seventh win in the last nine games, Chicago improved to 27-7-6 and 60 points, both second-highest in the NHL.

Sharp has been red-hot recently, scoring 13 goals in his last 14 games, and increased his points total to 40, second-best on the team. Sharp is on pace to break his single-season record of 36 goals, set in 2007-08.

Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 16 of Colorado's 18 shots.

It was the second-worst defeat of the season for the Avalanche (23-11-3), whose worst outing came in an 8-2 loss at Edmonton on Dec. 5. Colorado, which had been out to its third-best start in team history coming into the game, has now lost five of its last seven games (including three in overtime). The Avalanche are 11-6-2 in road games.

Sharp scored his first two goals -- his 19th and 20th -- in the first period at 12:27 and 19:18 (on the power-play), sandwiched around the first of Toews' two goals in the game at 18:03 -- his first goal since Dec. 11 vs. Philadelphia. From there, the rout was on against the Avalanche and starting goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped just 17 of Chicago's 24 shots in the first two periods.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith tallied three assists in the game, giving him 33 for the season.

Sharp made it a hat trick and a 4-0 lead just 27 seconds into the second period, and Toews added his second goal at 8:21 of the period, with Sharp earning the assist for good measure.

Colorado finally scored on center Paul Stastny's goal (No. 11) at 9:07 of the middle period.

Chicago center Michal Handzus (No. 4) and right winger Kris Versteeg (No. 8) added two more goals in the second period to make it 7-1.

Colorado coach Patrick Roy replaced Giguere with Semyon Varlamov to start the third period, and Varlamov would stop all 13 Blackhawks shots he faced.

Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog scored his 11th goal at 7:37 of the third period to round out the Avalanche's scoring.

Chicago, which lost 5-1 in Denver to the Avalanche on Nov. 19, now leads the all-time series between the two teams 50-47-9-6.

NOTES: Attendance was a season-high 22,201, surpassing the regular-season opening mark of 22,158 vs. the Washington Capitals. Chicago is now just two games away from 250 consecutive sellouts. ... Rumors continue to circulate that Blackhawks G Corey Crawford is getting closer to returning from the lower-body injury that sidelined him since Dec. 10. Latest talk is he may be ready as early as Saturday's game at St. Louis or Monday's home game vs. the Los Angeles Kings. ... Colorado has been very fortunate this season when it comes to injuries. The Avalanche lost only 57 man-games to injury, compared to 80 for the Blackhawks. The only Avalanche regular who remains sidelined is LW Alex Tanguay (knee). He is out indefinitely. ... Avalanche C Matt Duchene appeared in his 300th career NHL game.
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