CHICAGO -- The Dallas Stars were no strangers to the feeling inside the visitor's locker room during the second intermission at United Center on Sunday.
It probably felt like like déjà vu. Just as they'd done twice earlier this season, the Stars went to their locker room after two periods locked in a tough game against the Chicago Blackhawks 24 hours following a game at American Airlines Center.
They didn't win either of the previous games, but vowed this time would be different. It was after they scored three goals in the third period to win 6-3 and sweep their first back-to-back set of the season.
"We've been in this situation before, coming in here after two periods and being tired," said left wing Jamie Benn, who had three assists. "We came in here and talked about it. We just wanted to get the job done tonight. It was all that was on our minds and we found a way to win."
Center Cody Eakin, who led Dallas with two goals and an assist, scored the first of those goals in the third to put the Stars up 4-3 at 2:58 on the power play. Left wing Erik Cole scored at 10:59 to make it 5-3 and forward Shawn Horcoff scored into an empty net with 1:00 left in regulation to complete the scoring.
Dallas (21-17-7) got additional goals from centers Vernon Fiddler and Tyler Seguin, who assisted on Eakin's second goal for a two-point game. Defensemen Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg each had two assists and goalie Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves to win for the first time in four starts against the Blackhawks this season.
Chicago (28-15-2) lost to the Winnipeg Jets on home ice Friday under almost identical circumstances. The Jets came into United Center after defeating Dallas in a tough road game the day before. The Stars noticed what happened in that game and took some measure of confidence into their game against the Blackhawks.
"We knew [Winnipeg] came in here and did a good job to beat these guys, and we figured, 'Why can't we do the same?'" Benn said. "We know we're a good team in here. It's just believing in the system and believing in each other."
Chicago has lost three of its past four games and two in a row for the first time since dropping a back-to-back set Nov. 1-2 at the Toronto Maple Leafs and against the Jets at home. Since losing in overtime at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 20, the Blackhawks are 6-6-1 and have fallen from first in the Central Division to third.
They're playing like themselves in spurts during games, but their usual consistency is missing. That's especially true on the defensive end of the rink, where defensemen and forwards alike are getting beaten too often for great scoring chances.
That's been the major issue the past two games, but has nagged them for much of the past month. In their past four games, the Blackhawks have allowed 16 goals.
"I think it's already a concern," said left wing Brandon Saad, who led Chicago with two goals and has four goals in his past four games. "With the skill in here, we're going to score goals, but the main objective here [is] we've got to keep them out of our net."
Eakin's second goal was a prime example. It was scored off a pretty tic-tac-toe play following one-touch passes by Benn and Seguin, who fed Eakin the puck with a cross-ice pass to the back side of the net for an easy tap-in goal.
It forced the Blackhawks to start pushing for the equalizer, which left them vulnerable to odd-man rushes against goalie Corey Crawford (28 saves).
"We didn’t commit ourselves to playing the right type of game," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We played hard and we played well at times, where we sustained the pressure and controlled the play, but then we had lapses where we were giving up 2-on-1s. It was evident throughout our entire game, whether it was our power play or our penalty kill or 5-on-5. We weren’t good enough in that area tonight."
Patrick Kane scored the other goal for the Blackhawks, who dominated the first five minutes. They raced out to a 9-1 edge in shots, but didn't get a goal. Instead, Seguin scored at 6:33 of the first to open the scoring and Eakin made it 2-0 at 10:49 with the Stars shorthanded.
Saad and Kane scored off rebounds to tie it 2-2, but Fiddler put Dallas back in front at 19:11 with a goal scored by putting in a rebound of Klingberg's shot that hit the left post.
Saad whirled and scored from the slot to tie it 3-3 at 7:13 of the second with his second goal of the game, but the Blackhawks couldn't get another one past Lehtonen before Eakin's early in the third. Lehtonen made 15 saves in the second, when Chicago outshot Dallas 16-6. He was asked to make five saves in the third.
"[Lehtonen] helped us out, so it was our turn to help him out and return the favor," Eakin said. "The game went back and forth. They started strong, we didn't ... and then we picked up our socks. The third period was good, which we needed."