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Eaves, Lehtonen shine as Stars beat Blackhawks, 4-2

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya got a lot of attention in their return to Chicago Thursday night, but the night belonged to Patrick Eaves and Kari Lehtonen. Eaves scored three goals, and Lehtonen stopped 44 shots as the Stars defeated the Blackhawks, 4-2, at United Center.

The win, the fourth straight on the road for the Stars (35-15-5), pulled them to within one point of Central Division and Western Conference-leading Chicago and the Stars have three games in hand.

The Stars, who lost 5-1 to Chicago at American Airlines Center on Saturday, scored all four of their goals in the first period. Eaves scored once five-on-five and twice on the power play, and John Klingberg scored four-on-four as the Stars took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission.

“It was just nice to get a good start,” Eaves said. “We got spanked on Saturday, so that was still fresh in our mouth. We didn’t play anywhere where we thought we should. We played more of our game tonight.”

The Stars – who lost the special teams battle in Saturday’s loss to Chicago – came out on top in that area in Thursday night’s victory. They were 2-2 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

“Real important for us because we wanted to get off to a good start and I thought we came out and really skated well,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We did a lot better job on special teams. A lot of what we talked about this morning. We wanted to be better on special teams. I thought we had a little bit of luck early, and they had a little bit of luck to start the third period, but the start, I think, put them in a deep hole.”

Chicago made the game interesting in the third period, scoring twice to cut the lead to two goals but Lehtonen made 19 of his 44 saves in the third to preserve the Dallas win. Lehtonen, who made 37 saves in Tuesday’s overtime win in Minnesota, has stopped 81 of 86 shots in his past two starts.

“Absolutely fabulous. He made some great saves for us,” said Ruff. “Minnesota was the same way; we needed some big saves at important times. He made some game changers.”

The Blackhawks (36-18-4) lost their second straight game and fell to 4-5-0 in their past nine.

“Certainly, it was a terrible, brutal, brutal first period,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews: “I think we could expect that they’re going to come out hard, given the fact that they had a rough game, maybe didn’t play their best against us last time we were in their building a week ago. I guess we weren’t prepared to respond to that.”

Eaves scored 3:19 into the game, beating Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with a sharp angle shot to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

“I just shot it short side, and it just squeaked in,” Eaves said.

Klingberg extended the lead to 2-0 at the 9:44 mark, skating into the slot and putting a backhand shot on net that deflected off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Crawford.

Eaves then scored on the first two power plays of the game to push Dallas’ lead to 4-0. Tyler Seguin made a great pass from the left corner to Eaves, who scored from close range at the 16:26 mark of the first to extend the lead to 3-0. The Stars’ next power play came with 20 seconds left in the first and Eaves scored four seconds into it, putting home the rebound of a Seguin shot to give Dallas a 4-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Eaves, who has been playing on the top line with Seguin and Jamie Benn has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past four games.

“Playing with some pretty special players,” Eaves said. “Things happen fast out there, usually towards the net, so I just try to be there and help out.”

Said Seguin: “He is really shooting them right now. Last game, he had a great shot against Minnesota. He’s got a quick release, and when you find those open spots good things are going to happen. He’s dialed in right now.”

After a scoreless second period, the Blackhawks made things interesting in the third, outshooting the Stars 21-2 and scoring twice to make it a 4-2 game. Duncan Keith scored 32 seconds into the period when his point shot deflected in off Klingberg. Patrick Kane scored off a Jonathan Toews faceoff win at 7:48 mark. But that was as close as the Blackhawks would get.

The Stars killed off a Chicago power play just after Kane scored and Lehtonen came up with some big stops the rest of the way, including a great one on a point-blank shot by Andrew Shaw with just under eight minutes left to help keep the Stars on the path to victory.

Stars defenseman Jason Demers did not play in Thursday’s game. Just before the start of the game, the Stars announced he was out due to illness.

“He got sick last night. He was here for the game but couldn’t go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Stars forward Travis Moen left Thursday’s game midway through the second period and did not return. He had a lower-body injury.

“Looks like he could be out for a few days,” Ruff said.

Stars forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya played their first regular season games in Chicago since being acquired by Dallas in the offseason. The Blackhawks played video tributes to both players during the game. Sharp played in Chicago ten seasons and won three Stanley Cups and Oduya played there three-plus seasons and won two Cups.

“That was very special. First class by a first-class organization,” Sharp said. “I’ve said many times I enjoyed my ten years here in Chicago. Very proud of what we accomplished on and off the ice. I have a lot of good friends over there on the other side, and that was definitely emotional to watch that.”

*Patrick Eaves tallied the second hat trick of his career. The first one came in December 2010 when he was with Detroit. The opponent? The Dallas Stars.

*Eaves became the tenth player in franchise history to score three goals in one period. The last player to do it was Tyler Seguin, who scored three in the second period against Philadelphia in December 2013.

*The Stars improved to 12-5-1 vs. the Central Division.

*Chicago outshot the Stars 46-32 and had a 62-51 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Eaves led the Stars with six shots on goal.

*The Stars were 2-2 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars scored two power-play goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 27.

*The Stars won 27 of 57 faceoffs (47 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 9 of 15 faceoffs (60 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 13 (54 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 15 (48 percent). Jamie Benn won 3 of 8 (38 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 25:02 of ice time.

The Stars return home to take on the league-leading Washington Capitals Saturday night at American Airlines Center. This is the second and final meeting between the two teams. The Stars won, 3-2, in Washington on Nov. 19.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaPatrik Nemeth

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jason Demers (illness), Jason Spezza (upper body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Radek Faksa

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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