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Stars make it six straight on road by beating Hawks

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO - All the Dallas Stars care about is winning, no matter how they get it done.

They don't want to talk about their League-best record when scoring first, which improved to 18-2-0 on Wednesday night with a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

They don't care much about their road winning streak, which improved to six games. They don't care how much their 3-for-3 power-play performance against the Hawks will boost them in the League rankings.

They also don't want to hear about their League-best 5-10-2 record when trailing after two periods or their stellar 9-3-2 mark when tied after two - a mark they improved on Wednesday night.

All the Stars (24-13-4) really care about is their overall record and point total - which is now 52 after the first 41 games.

"Going into third periods down a goal or tied, we don't talk a lot about changing our game or what we're going to do," said captain Brenden Morrow, whose goal 2:40 into the game gave Dallas a 1-0 lead and helped bump up that scoring-first stat. "We just kind of go out and do it. It's kind of a neat feeling that you don't have to be 'rah-rah' a lot or motivate to go win a game. You just kind of expect it now."

That includes games like this, which had a number of odd occurrences both good and bad for the Stars.

The good included the eventual game-winning goal by Mike Ribeiro 10:46 into the third on a power play -- his wrist shot from the right faceoff dot deflected off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson's leg past goalie Corey Crawford.

"I've been having so many chances like that and not going in," said Ribeiro, who scored twice to lead the Dallas attack. "Today, I got a lucky bounce."

The Stars' good fortune also included a missed penalty shot by Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg midway through the second with the game tied 2-2. Stalberg, who hasn't scored in 19 games, beat Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen with a move to the backhand. However, the puck hit the right post, then the crossbar and then the left post without crossing the goal line. Neither of them could believe it.

"I don't think I've ever seen it before," Lehtonen said. "There was an opening there. He could've put it three inches more inside the goal and I still wouldn't get it, so I was really lucky there."

Stalberg concurred.

"I don't think I ever seen that happen in my life," he said. "Three bars in one shot. That's a first for me, at least. I made the move I wanted to do, and I got it up the way I wanted. I don't know how it could happen to be honest."

Lehtonen, who made 35 saves, later came up big in the last few minutes of the third with the Hawks pushing hard to tie it. He helped the Stars kill off a late Chicago power play, which led to Steve Ott scoring a shorthanded empty-netter to seal it.

Fernando Pisani and Tomas Kopecky scored in the second for Chicago's only goals, while Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards added a pair of assists each for the Stars.

Dallas' misfortune happened during the warmup skate before the third period. Defensemen Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen collided hard and neither played in the third - forcing the Stars to go with four defensemen.

"Our guys recognized that we only had four D," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "They came back to the zone all the time. They tried to help out the four guys that were playing. A couple of those guys don't kill penalties as often as they did tonight and they had a couple in the third period. I've never seen anything like it … guys colliding with each other between the second and third period."

Crawford said both injured players will be re-evaluated on Thursday after apparently banging heads during the collision. Crawford said Skrastins' stick slashed Niskanen's hand and Niskanen also broke his nose and chipped his teeth. Skrastins may have shown concussion-like symptoms.

That combined with the two quick goals allowed in the second period to tie it were about the only things that went wrong for the Stars - who came out strong and led 2-0 after the first period.

Morrow got the scoring started on an early power play by collecting the puck and stuffing it home off Crawford's pad. Ribeiro then scored his first of the game to make it 2-0 at 7:28 of the first during another power play. Richards' slap shot from just above the left circle deflected off Ribeiro's right skate into the net.

Pisani got one back for Chicago at 9:35 of the second by firing a long wrist shot from the top of the slot that Lehtonen didn't catch -- the puck hit his trapper and deflected into the net to wake up both the Hawks and their fans. Feeding off the energy, Chicago kept the pressure going.

It paid off with Kopecky's goal at 11:43. He backhanded a rebound of his own shot from the low slot between Lehtonen's pad and the right post. Stalberg was tripped not long afterward, which set up the penalty shot.

Chicago outshot the Stars 15-5 in the second and dominated most of the action, but the gritty Stars did what they needed to do in the third to win. Meanwhile, the Hawks dropped to just 3-8-1 when tied after two periods and weren't pleased with falling behind early for the second game in a row.

"It's something that keeps coming back into our game, and you can't keep winning games if you're going to go down a goal or two in the first period," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It just makes things tougher on you. I don't know why we keep putting ourselves in that situation."

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