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Stars rout Blackhawks 5-0

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS --  A day off did wonders for the Dallas Stars.

After watching his team lose 6-3 to San Jose on Tuesday night, Dallas coach Marc Crawford canceled practice on Wednesday. The move paid off as the Stars looked rested on Thursday night against Chicago in a 5-0 win at the American AirlinesCenter.

"If they keep playing like that, we'll be giving them a lot of days off here going down the stretch," Crawford said. "Right now, it is about making sure that you get any bit of energy that you can."

Dallas got a goal and an assist from Jamie Benn, who now has points in nine straight games. Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and 16th of his career.

"He's been solid in everything. Most nights he's our best penalty killer," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said of Benn. "He's doing a lot of good things and has been a top player since he's come back from that shoulder injury."

The victory gives the Stars 84 points moved them ahead of Chicago into sixth place in the Western Conference -- both teams have 84 points and 33 non-shootout wins, but the Stars won the season series 3-1-0

To say the Hawks were disappointed after such a resounding loss would be putting it mildly.

"Tough one to explain, nothing good about this game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I don't know how to answer. We should all absorb some responsibility on how bad we were. We didn't respect the urgency (of tonight's game)."

In a performance that summed up the evening for the Hawks, top scorer Jonathan Toews finished with no shots and was minus-1.

"We knew this would be one of the toughest games of the year and had one of the worst performances," Toews said. "No excuses. We shouldn't forget this too quickly."

Dallas opened the scoring at 17:37 of the first period when Steve Ott scored his 11th of the season, beating goaltender Corey Crawford on a breakaway after a great pass from Brad Richards sent him in alone. Lehtonen was credited with a secondary assist on the goal, giving him a franchise-record six for the season, a record previously jointly held by Marty Turco and Ed Belfour. It was Ott's first goal since Feb. 9, a span of 16 games.

The Stars took control of the game early in the second period. Benn scored his 21st at 1:01 and captain Brenden Morrow made it 3-0 at 3:35 with his 27th of the season. Morrow's slap shot into the right side of the net ended Crawford's evening after he stopped just seven of 10 shots. Turco, the Stars' longtime starter who signed with the Hawks during the summer, came on for his first appearance in Dallas in an opposition uniform.

"The first period was pretty evenly matched but after that, we took over," Lehtonen said. " I think our guys played very well and executed our game."

Chicago still had a chance to get back in the game when Dallas rookie Tomas Vincour earned a double minor after a high stick drew blood on Duncan Keith at 7:27 of the second. However, just 31 seconds into the power play, Keith joined Vincour in the box after taking a penalty for boarding Benn, and Dallas was able to kill off the rest of the power play.

Turco's first big test came at 17:44 of the second when Ott had yet another breakaway, but the ex-Dallas goaltender made a huge glove save to deny his former teammate.

Turco's love of puckhandling came back to bite him early in the third. The Stars went ahead 4-0 at 2:54 after Turco came way out of the crease to play the puck on the right side of the boards. However, his attempted clearance was corralled by Jason Williams, who quickly put the puck into the net for his second goal since signing with the Stars.

Brandon Segal, who was recalled from the AHL Texas Stars earlier in the day, made it 5-0 with his fifth goal of the season at 11:52, knocking in a rebound after Turco stopped a shot by Richards.

"He stuck with it tonight and scored a big goal," Crawford said. "I'm Brandon's pretty happy. He stayed with it today, did a lot of good things in the game in the limited minutes that he got and that's what we need."

After tonight's performance, Crawford termed Friday's practice optional, which is just fine with his captain.

"We like days off," Morrow said. "Hopefully the coach hears that. You always want to play well and get rewarded for it so they throw them out a little more often."

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