- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Maybe we should start spelling his first name with an H.
“It’s fun to play against a guy like Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goaltender of all time,” Sharp said. “You see guys like that on the ice, Jaromir Jagr, as well; it’s crazy to line up against those guys.”
Sharp, who has four career hat tricks, leads the Blackhawks with 25 goals. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Sharp is one of four players with multiple three-goal games this season. Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin are the others.
Sharp also produced a hat trick Dec. 27 against the Colorado Avalanche. In his last six games, Sharp has nine goals and two assists.
Sharp wouldn’t speculate from the numbers end of things where his current run ranks for him, but it’s been special.
“I think I’ve felt like this a couple times in my career,” he said. “It’s the result of the good players I’m out there with making good plays, and all the hard work you put in as an individual. It’s a good run for our team, it’s a good run for me, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Early on, Sharp was the victim of some bad luck when he hit the post 4 minutes and 26 seconds into the game. But from there things would get better for the 32-year-old left winger. Much better.
Sharp opened the scoring 1:34 into the second period, taking a drop pass from Jonathan Toews and beating Brodeur with a snap shot from the high slot. He then gave Chicago a 3-1 lead 2:44 into the third period, when he received a pass from Brent Seabrook and scored from a difficult angle in the far left corner.
“Yesterday on Long Island I was in the same situation and Seabs had a chance to pass it to me and didn’t. I’ve been giving him a hard time for the last 24 hours, so he zipped one to me, a great pass, and I figured I’d send it on net and see what happened,” Sharp said. “You don’t really take a look there. You don’t really look where the net is. You just shoot it as hard as you can and hope it finds a way in.”
The Devils cut a 4-1 deficit to one score late in the final frame, but Sharp put them away when he accepted a long Duncan Keith pass off the left-wing boards in stride and then deked Brodeur on a breakaway, sliding the puck past the sprawling goaltender.
“Dunc’s hit me with a lot of long passes this season, so I knew the puck was coming,” Sharp said. “I just tried to get a jump on the defenseman [Jon Merrill] and it hit my stick perfectly off the boards. I tried to make a move. I think I was skating with my head down trying to control the puck for so long that the goaltender tried to sneak out on me. But I was able to get it by him at the last second.”
Canada is announcing its Olympic roster Tuesday -- and Sharp is doing everything in his power to give himself a chance to make the team. But he isn’t putting too much thought into that.
“I mean my priority is the Hawks,” Sharp said. “That’s the way it’s been all season. When you hear stuff about yourself as a player, that kind of motivates you. It’s a little extra incentive to play well. But I’ve gotten a bigger opportunity from [coach] Joel [Quennville] and the coaching staff this year, and I want to make sure that I show them that I’m worth it.”
The Blackhawks (29-7-8) ended up accumulating three points out of four on their two-game East Coast trip. Friday night they were spectacular, looking very much like defending Stanley Cup champions.
Their top line -- Sharp, Toews and Marian Hossa -- was dominant; Hossa even snapped a seven-game goal-scoring drought. They got strong goaltending from Antti Raanta (24 saves) and their best blueliners -- Keith and Seabrook -- rose to the occasion, combining for five assists. Even Quennville’s decision to move Brandon Saad onto Patrick Kane’s line paid off in the form of an early third-period marker.
“What a period. What a game,” Quennville said of his team’s four-goal third. “That [top] line was spectacular tonight. They were a threat and dangerous all night. We got some nice rush goals.
“What a spectacular shot [by Sharp] from an impossible angle. He did it all. And then he gets a big goal when all of a sudden they’re pressing and he makes a great play in the neutral zone and finishes it.”