CHICAGO – Joel Quenneville wanted his Chicago Blackhawks to be tougher than they'd been just 24 hours earlier, when the Dallas Stars outhit them by a wide margin and won a gritty 2-1 game to start the season.
"They were more physical than us," Quenneville said of the Stars, who came to Chicago on Saturday night in the second game of a home-and-home series at the United Center. "They were definitely more physical than us. We're looking for some action here tonight."
Quenneville got what he wanted – just not entirely in the way you might think.
Jamal Mayers did get into a scrap with former Blackhawks center Jake Dowell early on, but most of the "action" in Chicago's 5-2 victory came by way of offense. The Hawks made life difficult for Dallas from start to finish and goalie Andrew Raycroft wasn't able to repeat the sterling performance of Friday's hero, Kari Lehtonen.
"We were good in our defensive zone and we were helping out," said Hawks center Dave Bolland, who scored a pair of goals in his return from an upper-body injury that kept him out of Friday's contest and the final two preseason games. "That's a key thing in getting a win – just being back there and taking care of our defensive zone. The offense will always come."
It came in waves Saturday night, as Chicago outskated and outshot the Stars for the first 40 minutes and built a 4-1 lead on Patrick Sharp's first goal of the season just 5:10 into the third. Dallas (1-1-0) did out-hit the Hawks again by a sizeable margin (32-17), but unlike the first game Chicago lit the lamp a lot more often.
Andrew Brunette and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks (1-1-0), while Vernon Fiddler and Steve Ott did the scoring for the Stars. Sharp added an assist for a two-point night, while 11 other Hawks got on the score sheet in a dominating performance.
Still, despite allowing just two shots in the first 20 minutes, Chicago was up just 1-0 after Brunette's power-play goal 8:06 into the game. The Hawks kept stretching the shots-on-goal advantage early in the second, but weren't able to extend the lead until Boland’s first – which he wired past Stephane Robidas above the left circle with a wrister that went into the top right corner past Raycroft (26 saves).
Until then, it was starting to feel like one of those games the Hawks could let slip through their fingers despite playing well. Boland's goal combined with Toews' first of the season less than four minutes later virtually assured a collapse wouldn't happen.
"It was 1-0 for a while there and we were dominating shots, and it could easily take the wind out of your sails if they tie it up just like that," said Toews, who beat Raycroft on a break set up by a beautiful stretch pass from Brent Seabrook deep in the Hawks' zone. "We kept pushing and found a way to get that second one (from Bolland) and we had a lot of opportunities."
Toews' goal actually developed after he took a slashing penalty at 9:14 of the second. Shortly after leaving the penalty box, he skated to the Dallas blue line behind the Stars defense and Seabrook found him with a long-but-perfectly placed pass.
Toews did the rest to put Chicago up 3-0 at the 11:22 mark.
"That's never happened to me before, but I just had a feeling that time it was going to happen – especially (when) Saabs had the puck," Toews said. "Usually he just throws it down the ice and ices it, but this time I think he had three guys yelling at him because they all knew I was up the middle there. I had all the time in the world."
Fiddler finally got the Stars on the board at 12:35 when he roofed a shot over Corey Crawford's catching glove, but it didn't really faze Chicago.
The Hawks dominated the first 40 minutes in nearly the same way they did the night before. The major difference was that Raycroft wasn't quite as sharp as Lehtonen. Neither were the Dallas skaters.
The Stars managed just nine shots on goal heading into the second intermission and also took some bad penalties. They picked it up in the third, adding Ott's goal on a power play, but by then it was too late.
"One of the most disappointing things you can get is when you get outworked, and I thought we were outworked a little bit," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We started good, but then they got that power-play goal (by Brunette) and after that I thought we should have a little more dig. We didn't get it until the third and by that time it's too late against a real good team."
Sharp's cross-checking penalty set up Ott's goal in the third, and he was also called for tripping later in the period to go with a 10-minute misconduct with 8:38 left to play. All told, the teams combined for 16 penalties and two 10-minute misconducts – with the second assessed to Sharp's former roommate, Adam Burish, for a skirmish with just 11 seconds left in the game.
They might not have won in hits levied, but the Hawks felt like they accomplished what their coach wanted to see regardless – being tougher to play against.
"The fight by (Mayers) really gave us some energy and gave the crowd energy," Toews said. "Maybe we didn't win the stat, as far as hitting went, but we were moving our feet and taking hits to make plays. I think that proves your toughness just as much. We weren't bailing out of areas. We were winning puck battles and if you want to keep the puck and keep plays alive, that's what you've got to do."