Blackhawks 5, Devils 2

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks right wing Patrick Sharp scored a pair of goals to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at the United Center.
Sharp has had nothing short of an outstanding first half of the season. With Monday's tallies, he now has scored 10 goals in his last 13 games and 18 overall -- second highest on the team along with 18 assists.
Sharp put the Blackhawks (26-7-6) on the scoreboard first at 12:59 of the first period with a wrist shot that easily beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider, who started in the New Jersey net for veteran Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur received a rest after playing three of the Devils' last four games. The loss dropped Schneider's record for the season to 4-8-5, while Brodeur is 11-8-2.
While New Jersey (15-16-7) tied the game at 5:37 of the second period on right wing Stephen Gionta's tip-in (second goal of season) off a shot from defenseman Jon Merrill, the Blackhawks stormed right back with two more goals in the middle frame.
Right wing Patrick Kane tallied his team-leading 22nd goal of the season at 7:57 when he tipped in a rebound of a defenseman Nick Leddy shot that bounced off Devils goalie Cory Schneider and right onto Kane's waiting stick.
Then at 12:27, left winger Brian Bickell literally threaded the needle, finding a miniscule opening between Schneider, the left goal post and hovering teammate Andrew Shaw to sink his sixth goal of the season, making it 3-1 in Chicago's favor.
But just :59 into the third, the Devils closed the gap to 3-2 on right winger Michael Ryder's unassisted 11th goal of the season, a backhander past Chicago goalie Antti Raanta.
Just under five minutes later, Sharp somehow penetrated the Devils' normally stingy defense, went one-on-one against Schneider and tallied his second goal of the game in almost effortless fashion, making it 4-2 for the Blackhawks.
Leddy scored his fifth goal of the season -- on the power play -- at 12:59 to put the game out of reach.
In the first game between the two teams since 2012, strong defense by Chicago allowed the Blackhawks to outshoot the Devils 12-2 in the opening period, 25-8 through the first two periods and a lopsided 37-12 in the entire game. It was Chicago's first home win vs. the Devils since Dec. 31, 2009.
Both teams came into the game 3-1-1 in their previous five games.
NOTES: The attendance was 22,019, the second-largest home crowd for the Blackhawks this season. ... Ageless Jaromir Jagr continues to astound. Now in his 20th NHL season, the 41-year-old right winger came into the game leading the Devils with 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists). Next closest was LW Patrik Elias with 24 points. ... New Jersey came into the game with 143 man-games lost due to injury. Chicago lost 80 man-games thus far. ... The Blackhawks host the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. ... The Devils return to New Jersey to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. ... The game was temporarily stopped in the first period when the Blackhawks honored a local family from suburban Crete, Ill., that has three sons currently serving in the U.S. military. And then came the greatest Christmas present of all: Army Spec. Hunter Taylor emerged to surprise his family, drawing a standing ovation -- and not to mention a number of teary eyes -- from the United Center crowd.

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