The Dallas Stars got two goals from Ryan Garbutt and 38 saves from Kari Lehtonen, but it wasn’t enough to get points against the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at United Center.
The Stars, playing on the second night of a back-to-back and for the fourth time in six days, were outshot 42-27 by the Blackhawks, who won 49 of 71 faceoffs in the game.
“We didn’t have enough,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “It was a tough turnover for us. We hung around the first 10 minutes, it was pretty even … but I thought they slowly started to take it away from us.”
Still, the Stars were able to hang around the game, twice cutting two-goal deficits to one and being within striking distance up until the final seconds. But they ended up with a regulation loss and fell three points behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars have one game in hand on the Coyotes, who won in Pittsburgh Tuesday.
“We have three or four more of these back-to-backs. They’re not easy games to play,” said Benn. “The last 10 [games] we have aren’t going to be easy. We’re going to have to find a way to stick together and try to get as many points as we can.”
The Blackhawks finished their four-game homestand with a 3-1-0 mark and improved to 4-1-1 in their last six games overall.
“I liked our game,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “We had a good start, scoring first helps. I thought we did some good things throughout the game, all four lines were contributing and our special teams were good as well.”
The Stars had the game’s first good chance, but Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford made a sharp glove save on Garbutt’s close range backhand bid 2:10 into the game.
Lehtonen was sharp in goal for the Stars, making several saves including a couple of sharp ones on Chicago captain Jonathan Toews late in the period.
But Chicago went on a power play in the final minute of the period after a questionable goaltender interference call on Stars center Cody Eakin, and the Blackhawks cashed in to take a 1-0 lead. After Toews won a faceoff, Patrick Sharp put a shot on net and Andrew Shaw backhanded the rebound into the net with 18 seconds left in the period.
“I didn’t like the first call. That’s a tough call,” Ruff said of the goaltender interference penalty on Eakin. “Driving the net, he stopped and barely made contact. If we got out of that period we would have been OK, but it was one we needed to kill off.”
The Blackhawks extended the lead to 2-0 at 4:12 of the second period. After a couple of Stars turnovers left them pinned in their own zone, a Kris Versteeg shot deflected past Lehtonen off the stick of Stars forward Antoine Roussel.
The Stars cut the lead to 2-1 just past the midway point of the second. Tyler Seguin set up Garbutt, who broke in on net off the rush and beat Crawford with a backhand shot at the 10:56 mark of the period.
“I’ve had a lot of chances the last few games, using my speed to get in alone,” said Garbutt. “It was nice to score one for the team.”
The Stars got a momentum boost from the Garbutt goal, but couldn’t get the equalizer and the Blackhawks extended the lead less than four minutes later when defenseman Duncan Keith scored off a shot from the left point to make it a 3-1 game at the 14:15 mark.
The Stars made a game of it late in the third when Garbutt took the puck to the net put a shot on goal and then scored on his own rebound to make it a 3-2 game with 5:40 left in the third.
“I felt he was our best player tonight for sure,” Benn said of Garbutt “He was skating well, he had a few chances and got a couple goals.”
The Stars never could get anything going with Lehtonen out of the net for the extra attacker and Marian Hossa sealed the deal for the Blackhawks, backhanding the puck into the empty net with 33.3 seconds left to make it a 4-2 final.
The Stars return home to play Nashville Friday night at American Airlines Center.
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.