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Sharp, Niemi lead Stars past Blackhawks

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- Patrick Sharp was on point in his first game against his former team with a goal and an assist to help the Dallas Stars to their third consecutive win, 4-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

Sharp, who spent the past 10 seasons in Chicago and was part of three Stanley Cup champions with the Blackhawks, scored his 12th goal of the season 11 seconds into the third period on a wrist shot from the right circle off the rush that beat former teammate Corey Crawford just inside the far post.

"I wouldn't say we dominated. It's tough to dominate a team like Chicago," Sharp said. "You've got to capitalize on your chances because they play such good defense, and you've always got to be aware that their offense can bring them back."

Colton Sceviour scored his second goal of the season at 2:57 of the third to break open what had been a 1-0 game after two periods. Mattias Janmark's goal with 5:24 remaining completed the scoring.

Antti Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Cup in 2010, made 20 saves for his third shutout of the season. Jason Spezza also scored for Dallas (26-7-2), and Jason Demers had two assists. Defenseman Johnny Oduya, who signed with Dallas as a free agent this summer after being part of two Stanley Cup champions in Chicago, had an assist.

"Antti was good. I thought he made a couple of big saves," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We were great defensively in from of him. I think it was a single-digit chance game [for Chicago]. I don't think they had a scoring chance in the third period."

Crawford made 28 saves for Chicago (20-12-4), which was shut out for the third time this season.

The first period finished scoreless with Dallas outshooting Chicago 7-3 and the Blackhawks going 11:58 between shots on goal despite being on the power play twice.

"I think if you create more offense early in the game, it at least gives your team confidence, it gives you momentum, it gives you energy, and we didn't quite get it the way we needed it after those power plays [in the first period]," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Even if you don't score, if you generate some chances, some shots, it still give your team some energy. We didn't get a whole lot of that off those two power plays."

Dallas had its own shot drought of 13:49, extending into the second period, before Spezza broke through with a power-play goal at 9:12. After Sharp fed Spezza from the Chicago blue line, Spezza rushed up the right side and beat Crawford to his short side with a wrist shot off the rush. Crawford appeared to have the near post adequately covered, but Spezza's shot trickled through for his 13th goal of the season.

"Scoring first was important for them," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Our power play in the first period didn't generate much but I liked how we played, didn't give up anything. Then the second period they got the power-play goal, [we] still didn't give up much and then they scored right off the bat [in the third.] then, whether they opened us up all of a sudden we were trying to press. We didn't have the puck much at all, chased it around the whole period."

It might not have been one of the prettiest of the 281 goals Spezza has scored in his career, but he'll take it nonetheless.

"I kind of messed up and had to recover [the puck] and pick up speed. It was a tight gap, but I got it by him. I was trying to get the goalie to move off the post, and I just got it in there," Spezza said.

Niemi preserved the lead at 15:55 by stopping a wrist shot from Ryan Garbutt, who went to Chicago in the trade that sent Sharp to Dallas, and denying Andrew Desjardins on the ensuing rebound with a pad save while prone on the ice.

"There's something a little special [about playing Chicago] still, even though I haven't been there in a long time," Niemi said.

Sceviour scored his first goal since Nov. 12 against the Winnipeg Jets, a span of 16 games, when he redirected a wrist shot by Jordie Benn past Crawford, who made saves on breakaways by Ales Hemsky and Tyler Seguin. Janmark's shot went into the net off Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival for his eighth of the season.

"You anticipate some players getting to a certain level. If you can get them to exceed that level, that's special," Ruff said. "Scoring depth is really important because the farther you get down the season, the tighter it's going to get."

With 8:47 remaining, Blackhawks defenseman Rob Scuderi had to be helped off the ice after a puck deflected and struck him in the face.

"I haven't heard the final [word] on it, but it was a pretty good shot," Quenneville said. "But I think he's going to be OK. I have my fingers crossed."

The Blackhawks agreed that Sharp's goal was deflating.

"It was a tough way to start the third period. They've got a good team over there. They got a lot of explosive players and guys that can make plays happen quick," defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Dallas is 3-1-1 on the second night of back-to-back games. The Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-3 at Xcel Energy Center on Monday.

"It was excellent," Ruff said of the win. "I'm proud of the way the guys played. They played hard and they played the right way."

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