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Special teams falter as Stars fall to Blackhawks, 5-1

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

In a key game against the team they are chasing in the Central Division, the Dallas Stars came up way short before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center Saturday night, falling 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“They came to play, and they were ready to go,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “They embarrassed us in front of our fans and in our own building.”

The Stars, who had a chance to pull within one point of Chicago in the standings, instead ended up five points behind.

“It’s a huge game. We talked about it before the game and what it means,” said Stars forward Vernon Fiddler. “We just kind of laid an egg. It’s unacceptable. There are a lot of disappointed guys in here. We let our fans down tonight.”

Nothing went right for the Stars, especially on special teams. Chicago scored on the power play 34 seconds into the game. The Stars went 0-6 on the power play and gave up two shorthanded goals, the eighth and ninth they’ve allowed this season. Only Arizona (ten) has allowed more. The Stars surrendered another goal with the two teams playing four-on-four.

“Special teams didn’t help us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “It started the first shift of the game. Special teams were part of it. They were the better executing team. Our puck management wasn’t good enough. We are not going to beat that team managing the puck the way we did.”

Tyler Seguin scored the lone goal for the Stars. Antti Niemi got the start in goal and lasted just one period after allowing three goals on eleven shots. Kari Lehtonen played the final two periods and stopped 13 of 15 shots.

“[The goalies] fit in with everybody else. This was just a total team loss, really,” Ruff said. “We needed a couple saves, and there'd be a couple you'd like back when they're going through you, some tough-angle ones went in. But this one's on the team, it wasn't just goalies.

"Our top [defense] pair had a real tough night, and when that happens, most times you're going to have a tough night as a team."

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Stars (33-15-5). Chicago (36-16-4) won its third straight game and improved to 16-3-0 since Dec. 29. The Blackhawks got some payback after losing to the Stars, 4-0, in Dallas on Dec. 22.

“They beat us handily here last time, so we are even,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.

Artem Anisimov registered four points (one goal, three assists) and Corey Crawford stopped 36 of 37 shots for the Blackhawks.

“That was a big win for us,” said Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who had two assists. “Corey was unbelievable as you saw. He came up with a couple of key saves in key moments, and special teams were good today too.”

The Blackhawks went on a power play 29 seconds into the game and scored five seconds into it when Brent Seabrook scored off a blast from the top of the right circle.

“You want to play the best team in the league five-on-five,” Fiddler said. “You go down a man you’ve got to get the kill, especially that early in the game. We didn’t get the job done.”

The Blackhawks extended the lead to 2-0 at the 16:26 mark of the first. With the two teams playing four-on-four, defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk scored off the rebound of an Artemi Panarin shot.

The Stars answered 1:20 later when Seguin scored off the rebound of a Jamie Benn shot that hit the post, cutting the Chicago lead to 2-1 at the 17:46 mark.

The Stars went on a power play a little more than two minutes later, but Chicago scored shorthanded to extend its lead to 3-1. Jonathan Toews put a shot on net off the rush and Marian Hossa, who was trailing on the play, put the rebound on net and it slipped through Niemi at the 19:01 mark.

“I don't like the way we defended the first short-handed,” Ruff said. “It was basically a one-on-two, that just has lack of focus by our D-men going back.”

The Stars had two more full power plays in the second with a chance to cut into the Chicago lead. Crawford came up with several big stops to stifle the first one. On the second one, Anisimov won a race to a loose puck and put it past Lehtonen to make it a 4-1 game at the 12:39 mark.

Chicago extended its lead to 5-1 at the 17:24 mark when Patrick Kane put home the rebound of an Anisimov shot to round out the scoring in the game.

The two teams meet again Thursday, this time in Chicago.

“They were ready to come out and play. They knew what happened here last time, and they didn’t want that to happen again,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It’s nice we get them again here pretty quick so we have a chance to get them back.”

It appears Stars center Jason Spezza could be out for a while. Stars coach Lindy Ruff provided an update on Spezza, who suffered an upper body injury Thursday in Colorado when he went into the endboards hard after a hit by Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchmin.

“He’s going to be out a period of time,” Ruff said. “Now, it looks like week to week. It’s going to be more than a few games.”

The Stars placed Spezza on injured reserve Friday.

*The Stars outshot the Blackhawks 37-26 and had a 71-39 advantage in attempted shots.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with six shots on goal and nine shots attempts.

*Seguin has scored three goals in three games since the All-Star break.

*The Stars are 10-5-1 vs. the Central Division.

*The nine shorthanded goals against are the most the Stars have allowed in a season since surrendering 15 in 2010-11.

*The Stars were 0-6 on the power play and 5-6 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 24 of 58 faceoffs (41 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 4 of 7 faceoffs (57 percent). Radek Faksa won 5 of 11 (45 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 11 (41 percent). Mattias Janmark won 4 of 10 (40 percent). Jamie Benn won 3 of 8 (38 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:21 of ice time.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18, 532, a sellout. The Stars have sold out ten straight games and 17 for the season.

The Stars head back on the road for a two game trip, playing at Minnesota (Tuesday) and at Chicago (Thursday). The Stars next home game is Saturday, Feb. 13 against league-leading Washington.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Patrick SharpMattias JanmarkValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselCody EakinAles Hemsky

Vernon FiddlerRadek FaksaColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jason Spezza (upper body)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen

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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