CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks welcomed a speedy new forward from Finland into the mix Tuesday night, but their victory against the Dallas Stars overshadowed Teuvo Teravainen's first NHL game.
Led by a balanced offensive attack that produced 42 shots on goal, the Blackhawks picked up an important two points with a 4-2 win at United Center.
"It was a big win tonight," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who had a goal and an assist. "They’re a hungry team. They’re fighting for their playoff lives, and we knew that. We talked about that coming into tonight. I thought we came out, had a pretty good start. We were able to get one on the power play, which was nice to get jump-started."
That goal with the man advantage was scored by Andrew Shaw at 19:42 of the first for a 1-0 lead. The Blackhawks, who won four of five games against the Stars in the season series, are now 34-1-7 when scoring the first goal of a game.
With the win, Chicago maintained its three-point lead for second place in the Central Division on the Colorado Avalanche, who beat the Nashville Predators in a shootout. The Blackhawks also kept pace with the St. Louis Blues, who won at the Toronto Maple Leafs and lead Chicago by six points for the division lead.
"I think everybody's got motivation down the stretch," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'd like to push ahead. Colorado just won, so that will keep our attention for sure. You've got to play the right way to get points in our League, so that's our focus ... because we know our opponents are going to have some purpose behind them trying to get those two points, as well."
Kris Versteeg and Marian Hossa also scored for Chicago (42-16-15), which got two-point games out of Shaw (one goal, one assist) and Patrick Sharp (two assists).
Ryan Garbutt scored his 13th and 14th goals for the Stars (34-27-11), who played for the second time in as many days.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (25 saves) got the win, and Kari Lehtonen (38 saves) took the loss for the Stars.
Dallas fell three points back of the Phoenix Coyotes for the second of two Western Conference wild-card spots into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"You have to play a full 60 minutes consistently, the right way," Stars forward Jamie Benn said. "We have three or four more of these back-to-backs. They’re not easy games to play. The last 10 [games] we have aren’t going to be easy. We’re going to have to find a way to stick together and try to get as many points as we can."
The Blackhawks have the same outlook. They also have a new face in the lineup.
Teravainen didn't register a point or shot while centering Chicago's second line, but the highly touted 19-year-old won all seven faceoffs he took and spent time on the Blackhawks’ top power-play unit. Several times he flashed the speed and skill that created a buzz about him with Jokerit of the Finnish Liiga this season.
Quenneville liked what he saw from the youngster at both ends of the ice, but Teravainen thought it could've gone better.
"I felt like I could really play in this league and try to really help this team, but I think still that wasn't my best game out there," he said. "I tried to play simple and do [the] small things right. I really think I can play better. I tried to focus on faceoffs and [defense]. I think I need to play more offense too, but I think my defense was OK."
As it turned out, Chicago's sustained offensive pressure made Teravainen's lack of production seem like nitpicking.
It was Shaw who finally broke through against Lehtonen to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Shaw’s 19th goal, with 18 seconds left in the first, capped a power play when he finished with a high-skill play. Following a point shot by Sharp, he scooped the rebound and scored with a nice backhand from his knees.
It was the lone goal of the opening period only because of outstanding goaltending.
Crawford made several highlight-reel stops in the first, including a glove save to turn away a breakaway by Garbutt 2:10 into the game. He flashed the glove again to snag a wrist shot by Benn with 5:01 left in the first before turning Garbutt away again two minutes later with a deft left-pad save.
Lehtonen was nearly as sharp.
His best effort in the first came at the expense of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who found himself alone in front of the net late in the period after a pass from Hossa. Toews tried to lift a backhand shot over Lehtonen's left pad, but the Stars goalie just got a piece of it with his glove to keep it out.
"I thought he played very well for us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen. "I think it's a real good sign. It was a busy game for him, probably his busiest game in a long time. He faced over 40 shots, and there were multiple opportunities where the goalie's got to be moving."
Versteeg made it 2-0 at 4:12 of the second with his 12th goal. After Dallas left wing Antoine Roussel's turnover put the puck on Versteeg's stick in the right circle, the ensuing shot deflected off Roussel's stick blade and snuck past Lehtonen.
Garbutt got Dallas on the scoreboard at 10:56 of the second, scored off a nice backhand, but Keith re-established the two-goal lead for the Blackhawks at 14:15 with a shot from the point that sailed through traffic for a 3-1 Chicago advantage.
It was Keith's sixth goal, third in the past five games. It was also the second primary assist of the game for Sharp, who has two goals and 10 assists in the past 12 games.
In the third, Crawford and the Blackhawks defense protected the 3-1 lead until Garbutt struck again with 5:40 left to bring Dallas within a goal and make the final five minutes interesting.
After fending off another quick Dallas scoring opportunity, Chicago appeared to have the win secured with an empty-net goal by Niklas Hjalmarsson with 59 seconds left. It was disallowed when Brandon Bollig was called for playing the puck with a high stick, but Hossa scored into an empty-net at 19:26 to seal it with his 26th goal.
Before the game, a moment of silence was observed for Tim Sassone, of the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, who died Monday morning at the age of 58. Sassone covered the Blackhawks beat for 26 seasons, including their Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013.