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All they do is win: Stars find new way to extend point streak

Dallas rides sparkling effort by Khudobin to shootout win over Chicago, continuing its best run since 2010-11 season

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- If there was any doubt the Stars have completely turned this season on its ear, it was erased Saturday at American Airlines Center.

 

[WATCH: All Stars vs. Blackhawks highlights]

 

Exchanging shots with the feisty Chicago Blackhawks in a fantastic goalie duel, Dallas took a 2-1 win in the shootout and pushed its point streak to 11 games (10-0-1) -- the first time the Stars have done that since 2010-11. It was a gritty win against a divisional rival in which the Stars dug deep and showed all of the levels that have helped turn this season around.

  • Anton Khudobin continued his case as the best "backup" goalie in the NHL by posting 38 saves and stopping an additional two shots in the shootout.

  • Roope Hintz and John Klingberg both returned from injuries that had kept them out for seven and six games respectively and combined for the only regulation goal the Stars scored.

  • And when Justin Dowling left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, players shuffled lines all over the place and made each line work.

Video: CHI@DAL: Montgomery breaks down shootout win

It was a microcosm of everything the Stars have had to deal with this season, and it was a perfect example of why they are winning games.

"It's a division rival, and I don't think we were on top of our game like we have been, and we still found a way," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "We are managing games. We are finding ways to win even when we are not playing at our best, and we are not beating ourselves right now."

They were earlier. When they started 1-7-1, they were the cause of their own demise in several close games. They couldn't score a big goal or they couldn't handle the pressure of a tie game. Heck, before this contest, they were 0-3-0 when tied after two periods, so playing a game like this was important.

Chicago is off to a slow start at 9-9-5, but still is loaded with talent. This is a team that has Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and can put Vezina finalist Robin Lehner in goal. The Blackhawks entered the game on a 5-2-1 roll, and look like they could be making a push to get back into playoff contention.

Chicago dictated the pace of the game and revved things up, and the Stars followed along. That worked great in the first period when Dallas had a ton of scoring chances, but it caught up to the typically conservative Stars at times.

Video: CHI@DAL: Khudobin sprawls out to stop multiple shots

"Chicago is really good at the way that they play. It's hard to stay with your game because of it. You have a lot more time and space with the puck and they keep bringing pucks back," Montgomery said. "It is a different style of game and it takes a little bit of adjustment to get used to, and obviously it will be good that we play them again on Tuesday."

With the two teams meeting in Chicago on Tuesday, a loss for the Stars could have created an interesting mix of draining their own positive momentum and feeding the Blackhawks'. Instead, Dallas simply wouldn't break.

Credit Khudobin for a lot of that. He stopped a flurry of shots in the third period that had to be reviewed by the league just to make sure the puck didn't cross the goal line. He stopped Kane on a breakaway in overtime, and then stopped both Kane and Toews in the shootout.

He was heroic.

"You have two goalies who are really good, and they give you a chance to win every time," Klingberg said of Khudobin and Ben Bishop.

Video: CHI@DAL: Khudobin anchors Stars to shootout win

While Montgomery added: "He was the best player in the game. We are very fortunate to have Bish as our starter and have him as 1B or 1A, or whatever you want to call it. It's two years now that we are very fortunate with the goalies we have that backbone this team."

The Stars finished second in the NHL in goals against average last season and are second again this year. Khudobin ranks third among qualifying goalies at 2.15 and is fourth in save percentage at .929. Bishop ranks sixth at 2.25 and 10th in save percentage at .926.

Of course, Lehner also is having a great year. He leads the NHL in save percentage at .938 and is seventh in GAA at 2.38.

That made for a pretty intense competition Saturday - and a lot of respect.

"They're a really good hockey team," Lehner said. "They have a really good roster, they're playing really well. I thought we gave them a fight and, yeah, I thought it was a really good game back and forth."

Video: CHI@DAL: Seguin rips puck through Lehner's five-hole

The Stars made smart plays and overcame mistakes with team hustle. They fired 41 shots on net (second most of the season to 43 shots on goal against Ottawa on Oct. 21) and had 71 shot attempts. They outhit the Blackhawks, 23-14 and killed six minutes of shorthanded time.

They did what they had to do.

Yes, Corey Perry, Radek Faksa, Jamie Benn and Jason Dickinson each could have potted a goal with a fairly open net where they didn't finish, but those are moments that can possibly help in the future. Just as it was important the Stars survived two video reviews that could have given the Blackhawks a go-ahead goal.

This streak has been both impressive and instructional. Not only have the Stars found different ways to win just about every night, they are logging lessons that should come in handy down the road.

"Not all games are going to be like the past three, four games," said Klingberg. "We found a way to win today. Again, we could have probably scored in overtime there. We have so many skilled players that when we go to shootouts, we know we have a really good chance to win."

Video: CHI@DAL: Khudobin makes great save to rob Kane

One of the most interesting lines in the Minnesota/Dallas record book for me has always been the fact the longest winning streak in franchise history is seven games - reached four times, most recently in 2008. They can tie that mark on Monday against Vegas.

It would be a fitting accomplishment for this group…at this time.

But they know that the challenge is going to be real and intense, and probably just a little bit different.

"It's always great when you're winning, confidence always goes up," Khudobin said. "But at the same time, we have a lot of work in front of us. We can celebrate today a little bit, we can have fun, but at the same time there are a lot of games in front of us."

Which is actually just what the 2019-20 Stars want.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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