DALLAS – It was the sort of game to be expected from two Central Division rivals, a back-and-forth, speed-driven game that required more than 60 minutes to be decided.
In the end, it was a familiar face playing the role of hero for the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Patrick Kane scored the clinching goal in the shootout to give Chicago a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center in the season opener for both teams.
But Chicago wouldn't have made it to the shootout if it wasn't for goalie Corey Crawford, whose big stops kept the Blackhawks in position to steal a win after they played a sluggish opening two periods.
"We have to call the cops," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We stole two points tonight. [Crawford] was great; first period, second period better. We got going in the third, but certainly call that a goalie win."
Crawford finished with 32 saves.
"The third period, the first 10 minutes, he made incredible saves," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said of Crawford. "All night long he was great, so we can be happy getting out of here with a win, but if it wasn't for Corey, it'd be a different situation."
Kane was Chicago's second shooter in the shootout; he beat Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen top shelf over his left shoulder with a well-placed backhand. Lehtonen had pushed a shot by Chicago's first shooter, Jonathan Toews, wide left.
"Yeah, I knew what I was doing the whole way down today," Kane said. "I had kind of a gut feeling, whether it was watching video before the game or trying some things in practice. I just kind of put a move in the back of my head and stuck to it the whole way."
Crawford made saves on all three Dallas shooters in the tiebreaker. He denied Jason Spezza's shot down the middle and deflected a blast by Tyler Seguin wide. The Stars' third shooter, Ales Hemsky, lost possession of the puck in the right circle before being stopped by Crawford, sending the Blackhawks rushing onto the ice to celebrate their season-opening victory.
Chicago has won seven straight games in Dallas.
Despite being outshot 8-3 in the opening period, the Blackhawks headed into the first intermission with the lead after Duncan Keith whistled a slap shot past Lehtonen to the short side at 19:16.
"That was a tough first goal, but I really thought he looked like himself after that," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen. "You've got to give him credit for fighting that one off."
Keith and Sharp each had two points (goal, assist) for Chicago.
The Stars had several solid chances in the opening 20 minutes, including a backhand by Patrick Eaves at 7:40 that hit the crossbar.
Dallas continued generating opportunities in the second period and nearly took the lead at 2:17 when Crawford denied Cody Eakin's long shot. Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson then made a heads-up play to knock the ensuing rebound out of the air with his left glove.
Midway through the second, Hjalmarsson was called for high sticking on Eaves, drawing blood from the Dallas forward's face and giving the Stars a four-minute power play. Dallas tied it 1-1 when defenseman Trevor Daley scored with a slap shot from the edge of the right circle 10 seconds later after an attempted pass by Hemsky deflected off Keith's skate.
"We took way too many penalties, five in the first two periods, so we got out of sync, killing penalties, hemmed in our end," Quenneville said. "We didn't have the puck much in our end; we didn't generate any offense, not a threat, but we took too many careless penalties."
Daley, who turned 31 on Thursday, couldn't remember if he'd ever scored on his birthday before, but outcome aside, the longtime Stars defenseman liked how he and his teammates went toe-to-toe with the Blackhawks all night long.
"They're a great team. They've been in the Cup," Daley said. "For 40 minutes, we carried the game. We played some good hockey. The last 20 minutes, the penalties gave them some momentum. It shows why they're a good team. They found a way to win."
The Stars took their first lead, 2-1, at 15:04 of the second when Eakin beat Crawford top shelf on his glove side with a wrist shot from the high slot.
"Obviously, we're not happy with the way it finished, but we did a lot of good things," Eakin said.
Chicago had several great opportunities to pull the game even again early in the third. Lehtonen denied Kane at the near post at 4:03 and a long-range slap shot by defenseman Johnny Oduya from the left point that looked like a sure goal at 5:26 instead hit the far post.
But the Blackhawks did score that second goal at 11:10 of the third when Sharp beat Lehtonen short side for a power-play goal, not far from the same spot where Keith had scored late in the first.
The Blackhawks went on the power play again with 1:55 remaining in regulation after Benn inadvertently shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Lehtonen stood tall and made key saves on Toews and Richards to force overtime.
Kane delivered the lone highlight of the extra period when he attempted to put a backhand past Lehtonen after a spin-o-rama at 1:08, but the Dallas goaltender denied him.
Lehtonen stopped 24 of 26 shots.