The Dallas Stars made it five wins in their past six games, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 before an energetic sellout crowd at American Airlines Center Saturday night.
Kari Lehtonen continued his strong play, stopping 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season. Lehtonen is 5-1-0 in Dallas’ past six games with a 1.50 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
"Pretty good,” Lehtonen said of his confidence level right now. “It was a good game against a great team. It was fun out there for me and for everybody."
Lehtonen had several big saves, including one on a Marian Hossa breakaway and another on a Brandon Saad penalty shot.
“Kari is rolling and playing really good for us,” said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. “It’s obviously huge for us when he makes those saves. He was unreal tonight.”
Lehtonen got plenty of offensive support. The Stars struck twice in the first period to take a 2-0 lead and then tacked on two more goals in the third to put Chicago away. The Stars won the special teams battle, scoring twice on the power play and killing off two Chicago power plays early in the game to keep the Blackhawks from grabbing an early lead.
“Special teams win and lose games,” Benn said. “Our power play was on point tonight and to get those two kills in the first was huge for us and we just rolled off it.”
Patrick Eaves and Jason Spezza both had one goal and one assist for the Stars. Tyler Seguin and Shawn Horcoff scored power play goals. Alex Goligoski chipped in two assists.
Even with the win, which was their seventh in the past nine games, the Stars were unable to make up any ground on the final playoff spot in the West. Winnipeg defeated Washington, leaving the Stars eight points out of the second wild-card spot with ten games remaining.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot. That chase is going to be agonizing. We've just got to take care of our own end,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We can't do anything about Winnipeg winning. Our responsibility is to just take it a game at a time, and be ready to win games.”
“We’ve just got to win,” Goligoski said. “We’ve got to win the next game and win the one after that. We just have to win.”
The Blackhawks had a four-game winning streak come to an end, and they suffered their first regulation loss in the past eight games.
“Tonight I thought we got outworked,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our power play wasn’t very good, and the penalty killing wasn’t very good and the team game wasn’t very good. They deserved to win. I thought they were the better team.”
The Stars killed off two Chicago power plays in the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the game and then struck midway through the period to take the early lead. Goligoski carried the puck into the Dallas zone and set up Eaves, who scored from the right circle at the 9:36 mark.
The Stars extended the lead by cashing in on their first power play of the night. Spezza put a shot on net from the right circle and Seguin put home the rebound to make it a 2-0 game at the 16:02 mark of the first.
The Stars dominated play for a good part of the second period and had some great chances to extend the lead, but couldn’t take advantage. The best one came with 6:13 left in the period when Seguin set up Cody Eakin on a two-on-one, but Eakin’s shot at the open net went wide. Chicago had chances late in the second. Lehtonen came up big with 4:48 left, denying Hossa’s breakaway bid.
"I anticipated him to get a breakaway. I played with him a while back. I know how fast he is. I was extra ready,” Lehtonen said. “It was a quick shot. That's what he likes to do, and it was nice to get that save. That was a great time of the game."
The Stars scored on the power play at 6:02 of the third period to extend their lead to 3-0. Horcoff tipped in a Goligoski shot from the point.
Chicago’s Brandon Saad was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped up by Jordie Benn on a breakaway, but Lehtonen came up big again, denying Saad’s five-hole bid on the penalty shot.
Spezza made it a 4-0 game scoring off a shot from the slot at the 9:32 mark. Lehtonen and the Stars kept Chicago off the board the rest of the way, making it three wins in the last four games at home. The Stars capped off the night with a salute to fans from center ice.
“I think that’s awesome,” said Ruff. “I think we’ve got a great group of guys and there’s been some heartbreak in this building. The last couple of games have been a little bit of payback with the building full and the energy here and quite a few Chicago fans.”
Chicago fans that went home disappointed on this night.
*The Stars snapped a seven-game winless streak at home against Chicago, defeating the Blackhawks at American Airlines Center for the first time since Oct. 7, 2011.
*The Stars have allowed just ten goals in the past six games.
*Chicago outshot the Stars 33-29.
*Patrick Eaves led the Stars with six shots on goal.
*Curtis McKenzie and Jordie Benn led the Stars with four hits each. Benn had the hit of the night, leveling Chicago forward Andrew Shaw along the boards in the second period.
*The Stars won 21 of 50 faceoffs (42 percent).
*Shawn Horcoff won 7 of 10 draws (70 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 4 of 10 (40 percent). Cody Eakin won 5 of 16 (31 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 22:04 of ice time.
*The game started about two minutes late due to referee Jean Hebert needing repair work to his helmet.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Patrick Eaves – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Jyrki Jokipakka – Alex Goligoski
Patrik Nemeth – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.