DALLAS - Patrick Sharp doesn't see it getting any easier to play Chicago, even when he scores against his former team in a dominant victory that shows Dallas might be the team to beat in the Western Conference.
The veteran forward simply spent too many years and won too many Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks.
"It really wasn't that fun of a game," Sharp said after getting a goal and an assist Tuesday night in a 4-0 victory that gave the Stars an NHL-leading 26 wins and 54 points. "Hockey's a game you play with a lot of intensity, and that's hard to do against your buddies."
It was Sharp's first regular-season game against Chicago since coming to the Stars in an off-season trade when the Blackhawks were trying save salary-cap space. He had just won his third Stanley Cup in six seasons, and spent 10 years with the Blackhawks.
Sharp scored 11 seconds into the third period to give Dallas a 2-0 lead in what had been a game with few chances between the highest-scoring teams in the West. His goal sparked a 17-3 shot advantage in third period.
"I wouldn't say we dominated," Sharp said. "It's tough to dominate a team like Chicago."
Antti Niemi stopped 20 shots for his third shutout this season a night after replacing Kari Lehtonen less than 10 minutes into a 6-3 win at Minnesota when the Stars rallied from a quick 2-0 deficit.
The first of five meetings between likely West contenders featured the league's top three scorers in Chicago's Patrick Kane and Dallas' Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. And yet each team went more than 10 minutes without a shot at some point in the first two periods.
Jason Spezza had the only goal in the first 40 minutes when he passed to himself to get by defenders while crossing the blue line and slipped the puck between Corey Crawford's pad and the post in the second period.
Sharp took a pass from Benn while racing up the right wing just after the third-period faceoff and beat Crawford over his left shoulder. Jason Demers had the first of his two assists on the play.
Less than 3 minutes later, Colton Sceviour tipped in a shot from the blue line by Jordie Benn for his first goal in 16 games.
"They just grabbed the momentum and never let us get it back," said Chicago's Jonathan Toews, who was held without a shot while Kane had just one. "I think we didn't do what we had to do to take it back, either."
Dallas defenceman Johnny Oduya had a steady if quiet Chicago reunion compared to Sharp after signing as a free agent following two Cup titles with the Blackhawks. He had three blocked shots in 20 minutes.
The best moment for Niemi in his 35th career shutout came while protecting a 1-0 lead late in the second period. He turned away a shot from close range by former Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt, who was part of the Sharp trade. Niemi made a spread-eagle stop on the rebound when Andrew Desjardins tried to slip the puck under his leg.
"I thought he made a couple of big saves," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We were great defensively in from of him. I don't think they had a scoring chance in the third period."
The Stars went about 14 minutes without a shot between the first and second periods, and the Blackhawks didn't have a shot in the final 12 minutes of a scoreless first period despite two power plays.
NOTES: Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, who lives in Dallas, dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... Spezza has a nine-game point streak against Chicago going back to his time in Ottawa. ... Blackhawks defenceman Rob Scuderi left the game after getting hit in the face by a deflected puck with 8 minutes remaining. ... The Stars are 5-2-0 against Central Division teams after having the worst record within the division last year at 8-14-7. The next two games are a home-and-home against another division rival, St. Louis.