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Stars take end of seven-game win streak in stride

Montgomery confident Dallas can 'reenergize' following shutout loss to Blackhawks

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Dallas Stars couldn't win their eighth game in a row on Tuesday, losing 3-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. But there's no denying the Stars have been playing outstanding hockey and are confident they can continue to do so.

"I think we've become a really hard team to play against, offensively and defensively," coach Jim Montgomery said. "Now that the streak is over, we have to reenergize."

The Stars were trying to win eight in row for the first time in franchise history. This was the fifth seven-game win streak in Stars/Minnesota North Stars history and the first since Jan. 29 - Feb. 11, 2008.

But they couldn't get it, stifled by Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who made 32 saves for his first shutout of the season. It was the first time the Stars lost in regulation since a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 26. They loss also ended the Stars' 12-game point streak (11-0-1), which was tied for the fourth-longest in their history. Their longest was a 15-game point streak (12-0-3) from Dec. 6, 1998-Jan. 6, 1999.

It's been a tremendous turnaround for the Stars, who began the season 1-7-1. After scoring 209 goals last season, which tied the Arizona Coyotes for 28th in the NHL, Dallas scored 17 goals in its first nine games this season (1.88 per game). As the losses mounted, morale dipped.

"We lost the first two games, then we lost the confidence, you know?" forward Radek Faksa said. "After that we won [a few] games and we gained confidence. And we played with so much confidence, that every night we knew we could win."

The confidence is showing in several aspects of their game. In their past 17 games, in which the Stars have gone 14-2-1, they've scored 54 goals (3.18 per game). Their penalty-kill percentage of 84.8 percent is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for sixth in the NHL, and they have allowed a League-low 32 goals (1.88 per game).

Video: Crawford, Blackhawks blank Stars, 3-0

Their goaltending is once again stellar. Ben Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, is 9-5-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Anton Khudobin, who stopped 35 of 37 shots against the Blackhawks on Tuesday, is 6-4-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .931 save percentage.

The run has vaulted the Stars (15-9-2) to second place in the Central Division, entering Wednesday two points behind the St. Louis Blues, the team that defeated them in the Western Conference Second Round last season.

"We've worked hard to dig ourselves out of that hole and put ourselves in a good position here at Thanksgiving," said forward Joe Pavelski, who in his first season with the Stars after playing his first 13 NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks. "But with what we've done, now it's about getting right back after it in the next game, playing the same type of hockey we've been playing, competing. We're a deep team. We have four lines that play hard, show up each night. So we need to get back in the win column there."

Forward Jason Dickinson said the Stars are close to the team they thought they could be at the start of the season.

"Defensively, we are what we want to be," he said. "There are still lapses; obviously you'll see moments where teams are going to get chances against us that we would like to shore up. But you know what? That's going to happen.

"Offensively, I think there's still more. We've stepped up the past few weeks, but it's doing that consistently that we need to find. We can do it every other game, but when we can start doing it every game, that's when we're going to be lethal, because our defensive game's not going to be something we need to worry about."

The Stars will play five of their next seven games at home, a stretch that starts against the Blues at American Airlines Center on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, SNE, SNW, SNP, FS-SW+, FS-MW, NHL.TV). It would've been nice to continue that win streak, but the Stars have been playing great, and they're hoping it continues.

"We're very happy about ourselves," Faksa said. "We bounced back from the tough start and now we feel really good about our game. Many chances today [against Chicago], we just didn't execute. But I think it wasn't a bad game. We had seven wins, so we knew [the loss] would come one day. The next game we have to come back, play our game and get back on a winning streak."

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