With both teams playing in the second night of back to back contests, the Sharks and Blackhawks converged in the United Center for the third of four meetings this season. Both previous meetings were one goal victories, with the Sharks winning on home ice, and the Blackhawks capturing the second meeting in OT.
An early wrap-around attempt by Brad Winchester would trigger a fight after Sean O'Donnell took exception to a few extra whacks at Crawford's legs by the San Jose winger.
Dave Bolland would finally find a crack in the goaltending duel, taking the puck from behind the goal line and managing to fire a rising shot from a sharp angle to beat Niemi with two minutes left in the period.
In the second period, San Jose battled back, breaking Crawford's shutout bid in the opening minutes when Joe Pavelski found a loose puck at the top of the Chicago zone and fired it through heavy traffic.
Torrey Mitchell won a board battle on the ensuing shift, breaking the puck away form the Chicago defense for Jamie McGinn at the side of the net. McGinn stuffed the puck between Crawford and the post, tying the game with the fourth goal in four minutes of play.
Stalberg and Toews combined again midway through the period. With the Swedish winger chasing a puck deep into the zone, Stalberg cut off an attempt by Niemi to play the puck in the trapezoid and quickly sent the puck to his captain, who fired into an essentially empty net to put the Hawks up once again.
Niemi kept his team close through the rest of the period, making 13 more saves, while the San Jose offense failed to test Chicago's defense.
In the third period, rookie Andrew Shaw, called up in the wake of injuries to Patrick Sharp and Daniel Carcillo, relentlessly attacked the net, picking up his own rebound twice on shots around the crease. Hopping over the Finnish netminder's outstretched leg pads, he tucked the loose puck into the open side of the net for his fourth NHL goal.
Another rookie, San Jose winger (and Chicago native) Tommy Wingels, scored his first NHL goal with five minutes left in regulation when he tipped in a Dan Boyle point shot to bring the Sharks back within one.
A Niklas Hjalmarsson penalty with just over a minute left gave the Sharks a two man advantage when head coach Todd McClelland called Niemi to the bench for an extra attacker. Sharks fans hoped to turn the tables on the Hawks, who had tied their game against Detroit on Saturday in a similar situation, but Crawford frustrated their final flurry of shots, kicking the puck into the corner as time expired.