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game recap

Stars defeat Blackhawks, clinch playoff berth

Fast start helps Dallas secure spot in postseason

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Dallas Stars made sure their hope of qualifying for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs didn't go down to the wire.

The Central Division leaders needed two points Tuesday to clinch a postseason spot and didn't waste any time securing it with a 6-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

Dallas (44-21-9) grabbed control with four first-period goals and didn't let up, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14 by defeating the Blackhawks (42-25-7) for the fourth time this season.

"The last couple years, we've been that team that's been fighting for it right up until the last couple games, so obviously it's nice to get the 'X' beside Dallas [in the standings]," said center Vernon Fiddler, who scored two goals in the first. "We still know we have lots of work ahead of us, and we're prepared to do that."

Video: DAL@CHI: Fiddler helps Stars get off to a fast start

Despite some key injuries, Dallas has won three straight games and is 6-1-2 in its past nine. The Blackhawks have lost their past two games, both on home ice to division opponents, and have lost seven of nine. They're third in the Central and fell six points behind the Stars with eight games left in the regular season.

It was the third straight game Dallas took a 4-0 lead against Chicago and second straight time it's happened at United Center.

"I don't know if it's confidence or whatever, but I think we have to find a way to rectify the way we play and play with more urgency," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's hard to measure confidence to me. If you play hard, you find your way through it."

Dallas had more jump in all but one game against Chicago this season, outscoring the Blackhawks 20-11 in the five-game series and 19-6 in four wins. The Stars have forced a goaltending change by Quenneville in each of the past three games, but are not about to write off the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Video: DAL@CHI: Lehtonen robs Hossa and Desjardins

"These guys are no joke," said left wing Jamie Benn, who had two assists to bring his point total to 82. "They're the real deal over there. They've got great leadership, a great core, obviously, and they know how to win. So, I don't think there's room for them to panic over there."

The Blackhawks need to find a way to stem the tide when the opposing team scores first; Chicago is 5-19-3 when allowing the first goal and has lost its past five games that has happened. The Blackhawks have allowed four-plus goals 18 times (2-14-2) as well. Last season, they allowed four-plus goals in 17 games.

Since setting a franchise record with 12 straight wins Dec. 29-Jan. 19, the Blackhawks are 10-12-3 and have allowed five or more goals five times.

"I'm not sure why that's the case," said right wing Patrick Kane, who had no points and a minus-3 rating. "Obviously when you get down, you want to continue to play the same structure and the same way, to try to work your way back into the game. For whatever reason, that hasn't been the case. We can do a lot better job of generating chances [and] holding onto the puck."

Video: DAL@CHI: Faksa scores on break to pad the lead

Dallas outshot the Blackhawks 15-9 and took a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals by Fiddler, Patrick Eaves and Colton Sceviour. Radek Faksa scored for Dallas in the second and Cody Eakin scored into an empty net at 13:48 of the third.

Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves for the Stars.

Andrew Shaw and Richard Panik scored goals for the Blackhawks, who started goalie Scott Darling for the fourth straight game. Darling allowed four goals and was replaced by Michael Leighton to start the second. Corey Crawford is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury.

"If you look back at previous years, it was the other way around, where we were getting a little bit clobbered [by the Blackhawks]," Sceviour said. "It's one of those things. It comes and goes."

Video: DAL@CHI: Shaw puts the Blackhawks on the board in 2nd

Dallas took a 2-0 lead on goals 25 seconds apart in the first, scored on the same shift by its fourth line.

Sceviour made it 1-0 at 11:34 with a shot from behind the net that bounced in off Darling. Fiddler scored his first goal of the period at 11:59 to make it 2-0 off a feed from Sceviour. Eaves capped a power play at 16:01 to make it 3-0 and Fiddler scored again at 18:43, 15 seconds after Chicago began a power play.

The Stars played their second game without Tyler Seguin (Achilles injury) and didn't have defenseman Kris Russell (lower body) for the first time since he was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Flames on Feb. 29.

Video: Stars top Blackhawks, clinch playoff berth

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