The Dallas Stars battled through adversity for a big two points Sunday, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, at United Center.
But it came at a cost.
Forward Mats Zuccarello, who was acquired from the New York Rangers on Saturday, suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period and is expected to miss at least four weeks. The Stars also lost captain Jamie Benn early in the game. He is day-to-day.
Zuccarello and Alexander Radulov both tallied one goal and one assist for the Stars, who got a superb 44-save effort from Anton Khudobin. Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza also scored as the Stars (31-26-5) opened a four-game road trip with big win.
Here are five things from Sunday's game.
1. Stars battle through for big two points
The Stars proved to be a resilient group in Sunday's 4-3 win over Chicago. They lost Benn early, Zuccarello late in the second period and had several other players get dinged up in the game. They squandered a 3-0 lead, came up short on a close video review, but bounced back with a big power play goal from Spezza to take a 4-3 lead and then killed off three straight Chicago power plays late in the game to secure the win.
"It is inspiring," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "To watch those players, watch our team as a group, overcome the adversity we had to overcome. We had six forwards get injured at different times. We had four people get cut, we had Jamie Benn leave in the first two minutes of the game. There were a lot of emotions in the game, a lot of swings. We didn't think it was a goal, they called it a goal. There were a lot of things we had to overcome.
"On a back-to-back, pretty impressive for our group to dig down like they did and it just shows the fight they have inside themselves."
The Stars got off to a good start. Khudobin made a couple of big saves early, and then Zuccarello helped get the Stars on the board first.
After Faksa nailed Chicago defenseman Slater Koekkoek with a big hit in the Dallas zone, Zuccarello sent the puck to Faksa, who scored on a breakaway at the 11:35 mark of the first. As Faksa was scoring, Stars forward Jason Dickinson and Chicago's John Hayden were fighting at center ice.
The Stars made it a 2-0 game at the 17:35 mark. After a turnover by Chicago's Gustav Forsling, Miro Heiskanen set up Radulov who scored on a close-range backhand shot.
Zuccarello pushed the lead to 3-0 early in the second period, taking a pass from Tyler Seguin and scoring from the right circle for his first goal as a Star.
But the Blackhawks pushed back.
Chris Kunitz scored from the slot 74 seconds after the Zuccarello goal to make it a 3-1 lead. Khudobin made a huge save on a point-blank bid by Jonathan Toews to keep it a two-goal game and appeared to make another spectacular glove save on a Drake Caggiula close-range shot. But the NHL said video review showed the puck crossed the goal line while in Khudobin's glove and it was a 3-2 game heading to the third.
"It's always up to the NHL, but I thought that was a save," Khudobin said. "That's my opinion."
Toews tied the game 3-3 at 4:16 of the third, scoring from the top of the right circle with Chicago on the power play.
But the Stars regained the lead, cashing in on a five-on-three advantage. Radulov set up Spezza, who scored from close range to put Dallas up 4-3 at 8:55 of the third.
Then, it was Khudobin, and the Dallas penalty kill which thwarted three straight Chicago power plays, including a four-minute one, late in the game to preserve the lead and get the Stars a big two points to open a four-game road trip.
"It was a gritty win for us and one that we needed," said Spezza. "It was a tough back-to-back, and with all the bodies going down, I thought we responded well."
Video: Montgomery on injuries, 'inspiring' win over Chicago
2. Zuccarello expected to miss 4 weeks; Benn day-to-day
Mats Zuccarello had an impressive debut with the Stars, tallying a goal, an assist, four shots on goal and a plus-three rating in 13:35 of playing time through almost two periods of play Sunday. But late in the second period he took a puck off the hand/arm area while blocking a shot by defenseman Connor Murphy and is going to miss at least four weeks.
"Mats Zuccarello is flying back to Dallas tonight, so he can get evaluated tomorrow by our doctors," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "We know it's an upper-body injury and it will be at least four weeks, probably just four weeks."
Four weeks from Sunday would put a return date at around March 24, which would be with seven regular season games remaining on the Dallas schedule.
Benn left the game early in the first period, taking just two shifts before exiting with an upper-body injury. Montgomery said the injury happened in Saturday's game against Carolina, Benn tried to play through it Sunday but couldn't. Benn is day-to-day.
His status for Tuesday's game against Vegas is to be determined.
Video: DAL@CHI: Zuccarello exits with injury in Stars debut
3. Before injury, Zuccarello makes immediate impact
Zuccarello played only two periods, but he made an impact on the Stars. It was more than just the goal and the assist he recorded in the game.
"His confidence, his swagger, his ability to make plays, I thought it elevated our team today," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.
Zuccarello started the game on a line with Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz, but once Benn went out early in the first period the line juggling began, and it continued as Dallas forwards got banged up during the game. Zuccarello spent most of his time playing with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.
"Awesome," Seguin said of playing Zuccarello. "Of course, it was only two periods, but his playmaking, his vision, you saw it from the first shift on."
Zuccarello had a game-high four high-danger scoring chances despite playing only two periods.
"He looked good, he gave us a jolt," said Stars forward Jason Spezza. "You've got to be excited with some of the plays he was making out there."
Video: DAL@CHI: Zuccarello gets goal, assist in Stars debut
4. Lovejoy makes Stars debut
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy made his Stars debut Sunday. Lovejoy, who was acquired from New Jersey on Saturday morning, logged 18:03 of ice time, including 3:13 on the penalty kill. He had no points, one shot on goal, three shot attempts, two hits, and three blocked shots.
Lovejoy started Sunday's game on a pair with Jamie Oleksiak, but also played a lot of with Esa Lindell during 5-on-5 play.
"I thought he was really good," said Montgomery.
With Chicago on a late four-minute power play and Roman Polak in the box for high sticking, Lovejoy logged about three minutes of penalty kill time.
"He did an incredible job for us," Montgomery said.
Video: DAL@CHI: Khudobin flashes the leather to rob Toews
5. Khudobin brilliant again
Khudobin has made 87 saves in winning his last two starts. He stopped 43 shots in Thursday's 5-2 win over St. Louis and then 44 more in Sunday's win. "Unreal," Montgomery said of Khudobin's performance Sunday. ... The Blackhawks outshot the Stars 47-29 and had a 63-48 advantage in shot attempts. ... Scoring chances were 24-24, according to naturalstattrick.com. ... The Stars were 1-for-2 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill. ... The Stars won 29 of 60 faceoffs (48 percent). ... Seguin won 10 of 19 faceoffs (53 percent). Faksa won 8 of 18 faceoffs (44 percent). ... Lindell led the Stars with 27:44 of ice time, including 6:48 on the penalty kill.
Here is the lineup the Stars used to start the game along with scratches and injuries.
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Jason Dickinson - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy
Scratched: Julius Honka, Taylor Fedun, Valeri Nichushkin
Injured: Tyler Pitlick (wrist surgery), Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.