Something to crow about: J.F. Berube stops 42 shots as Blackhawks beat Sharks
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Jean-Francois Berube sounded like he does this all the time.
“Just going out there and enjoying the moment,” Berube said matter-of-factly after stopping 42 shots in his first NHL start in nearly a year to lead the Blackhawks to a 3-1 victory over the Sharks on Friday night at the United Center.
With starter Corey Crawford missing his 27th consecutive game since going on injured reserve with a head injury in December, the 26-year-old Berube gave the Hawks the kind of backup performance they needed about a month ago. He stopped the first 39 shots he faced as the Hawks built a 2-0 lead in the third period.
“It means a lot,” said Berube, who was 6-4-3 in 13 starts for the Islanders the past two seasons. “You always want to have a good impression in your first game. I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do.”
It remains to be seen if Berube can sustain that level of performance, though he could start again Saturday against the Blue Jackets.
“We’ll see,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said.
But his performance in his first start with the Hawks surely gave a lift to a team that needs it.
“In this game, it’s tough to win without your goalie being good,” Quenneville said. “We were very happy with him. He did a great job. He was comfortable. He was patient in his net, absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front him was good. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence.”
Defenseman Jan Rutta, center Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov scored goals and Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Hawks (27-27-8), who have won three of four games and moved within 10 points of the Blues for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with three teams ahead of them.
It’s probably too little, too late. But a hot goalie with a lot to prove could lead to a strong finish.
“Not only me,” Berube said. “I think everyone here is trying to prove their best even though the playoff picture kind of looks almost impossible. Everyone wants to show that we have character in this locker room and everyone wants to play hard for this team. It sucks to be in this position, but everyone’s going to fight to the end.”
Rutta gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead at 5:46 of the second period with a second-chance shot from the right circle off a nice feed from Duclair. Schmaltz made it 2-0 when he easily scored off another nice setup from Duclair.
Timo Meier broke Berube’s shutout with a slap shot from the high slot at 12:09 of the third period. But Berube faced only three shots the rest of the way. Anisimov’s empty-net goal with 31 seconds left in regulation gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
Though he faced 43 shots, Berube wasn’t forced to be magnificent on too many occasions. But it was still 43 shots.
“They were putting a lot of bodies in front of the net,” Berube said. “They weren’t necessarily the hardest shots, but shots that are really hard to stop for goalies because anyone can put a stick on it. We did a really good job in front of the net picking up sticks. That helps a lot for me seeing pucks and tracking it. The credit goes to my defensemen, too.”