SAN JOSE, Calif. - Although Chicago's Badgers outscored Joe Pavelski 2-1, the San Jose centre got more help and ended up with bragging rights over his Wisconsin college buddies.
Pavelski scored a short-handed goal, Christian Ehrhoff finally got his first goal of the season and San Jose ended a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
Adam Burish and Jack Skille scored for Chicago one night after having dinner with Chicago teammate Jacob Dowell and Pavelski. All four played on the University of Wisconsin's 2006 NCAA championship team, and all four are off to promising starts in their NHL careers.
Though Pavelski relished the chance to go up against his old friends, he was happier to see his Sharks back in form after stumbling through their longest skid of the season.
"Burish runs his mouth a little bit - that's what he does best," Pavelski said of his former Badgers captain. "The big thing was we had to get our work done. You never want to drop two games in a row, let alone (four). ... The way the Ducks and Dallas are playing right now, it's big to get every win you can."
San Jose's win and Dallas' loss to Columbus again tightened the three-team race atop the Pacific Division. The Stars lead with 61 points, while Anaheim has 60 and San Jose 59.
Burish scored his first NHL goal midway through the third period for the Blackhawks, who are winless in nine straight meetings with the Sharks, including seven straight trips to San Jose. Patrick Lalime stopped 20 shots in his first regulation loss since Dec. 16.
"You notice who's on the ice, and you recognize them," Burish said. "We have a special bond, but on the ice, there are no friends. After (Pavelski) scored his goal, I kind of bumped him and told him he'll never score on me again."
Sandis Ozolinsh also scored and Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves as the Sharks improved the Western Conference's worst home record by holding on through a tense third period against the Blackhawks, whose four-game winning streak ended.
Several Sharks saw their four-game homestand before the all-star break as a measure of their readiness to earn a top spot in the Western Conference, but San Jose opened the series with decisive losses to Dallas and Detroit last week. The Sharks finish the homestand against St. Louis on Thursday.
"We wanted to get back to our style of hockey that the team has had some success with," said Ozolinsh, who got his first goal since Dec. 8 after being benched for seven of the last nine games. "(Nabokov) made some very timely saves on the penalty kill and really kept us ahead."
Nabokov had allowed 15 goals in three games since sitting out for the first time this season last Tuesday. But the all-star was spectacular against the Blackhawks, diving and scrambling around his crease for several jaw-dropping saves.
"Nabby saved the day, and some of the weak spots - some guys should buy him dinner, the guys he bailed out," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "A couple of our guys, I wonder if they even know how to play on our end of the rink."
San Jose went ahead late in the second period on a heady play by Pavelski, who caught prized Chicago rookie Patrick Kane loafing on the point during a power play. When Kane was slow to retrieve a loose puck, Pavelski scooted past him.
Ehrhoff then scored a power-play goal less than three minutes later when his shot from the blue line slipped underneath Lalime, who was screened by Joe Thornton. Ehrhoff's defence has improved this season, and he ranks third on the team with 16 assists - but the German defenceman hadn't scored a goal in his first 44 games of the season.
The teams played a chippy game, with several scrums after whistles. Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks' all-star defenceman, got a four-minute roughing penalty in the third period for a gloved punch to Pavelski's head after the whistle.
Right after the penalty ended, Burish capitalized on some defensive confusion to sneak behind three Sharks for his first goal in 58 career NHL games.
"Too long," Burish said. "I wish my parents could have seen it. They've been to a lot of games in Chicago. I would have liked it to be special."
Notes: The Blackhawks return to San Jose on Feb. 2. ... C Tomas Plihal made his season debut for the Sharks, centring a line with underachieving veterans Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo. San Jose recalled Plihal, who played his first three NHL games with the Sharks last season, on Sunday after Curtis Brown injured his hand. Plihal made the Sharks' roster out of training camp, but spent two months on injured reserve before going to the minors. ... Chicago RW Martin Lapointe missed his fourth straight game with a bruised kidney.