The Dallas Stars rolled out one of their best games of the season Friday night, but it didn’t add up to two points as the Stars fell 2-1 in an eleven-round shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center.
“That was one hell of a hockey game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “When you lose one like that it hurts, but when you get a point and you played them as tough as you did, you can take something away from that.”
“It was a heck of a game,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “The pace was incredible. The first period was tremendous pace. They work hard and they’ve got a lot of speed on you. They keep pressure on you. I thought we hung in there well.”
It was the second time the Stars have played the Blackhawks tough this season, but they have been able to come away with a win.
“We get excited to play these guys,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 25 of 26 shots. “We only have one point to show for two games, and that’s not enough, but it makes us feel more confident in what we are doing in this room. If we can play that way – and that’s easy to say – we should win a lot of games.”
The Stars suffered a big loss Friday night when defenseman Stephane Robidas left the game with a leg fracture. Robidas was injured in the second period when he went down and then hit the end boards while the Stars were on the penalty kill. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher and then went to the hospital.
“It didn’t look good,” said Ruff. “He’s been playing really well for us. He and [Brenden Dillon] have been a big pair for us. Robi is a battler. He’s really played well and hard for us.”
“That was tough,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “He’s a big part of this team.”
There’s no timetable yet on how long Robidas may be out. That should come in the days ahead.
The Stars and Blackhawks played a fast-paced first period and the Stars struck late in the period to take a 1-0 lead. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford got caught behind the net playing the puck, Shawn Horcoff won the puck battle and centered it to Rich Peverley, who scored from the slot to give Dallas the lead with 3:20 left in the first.
Lehtonen was sharp in the first period for the Stars, stopping nine shots. He had a big save on a close range shot by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook and another one on Ben Smith driving the net. Crawford had a big save on a Jamie Benn spinning backhand shot off the rush.
The Stars had a great opportunity to extend the lead 2:39 into the second period when Alex Chiasson was awarded a penalty shot after Seabrook hooked him on a breakaway. But Chiasson’s penalty shot bid rang off the post and it remained a 1-0 game.
“We had the penalty shot with a chance to put a little distance there,” said Ruff. “With just a little bit of finish, I think we could have put them away. When you look at the quality of chances in the game, we probably had the edge in quality.”
Lehtonen came up with another big save at the 6:14 mark of the second, denying Marian Hossa’s close range shot off a rebound.
Chicago when on its first power play with 8:29 left in the second. The Stars killed it off, but it was there that the Stars lost Robidas to the leg injury.
The Blackhawks tied the game with 12:39 remaining in the third period when Patrick Sharp deflected a Duncan Keith shot past Lehtonen to knot the game at 1-1.
Crawford came up with a big save on Jamie Benn, who got a point blank chance with 9:03 left in the third after the Blackhawks turned over the puck in their own end. Patrick Kane got a close range chance with 54.6 seconds left in regulation, but Lehtonen turned that one away sending the game to overtime.
After the scoreless overtime in which each team had one shot on goal, the Stars and Blackhawks headed to a shootout that ended up going eleven rounds. Sharp and Peverley scored in the regulation portion of it, and then no one scored until the eleventh round when Chicago’s Ben Smith beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot that gave Chicago the victory.
“It was fun. That was my first shootout here, in this league,” Smith said. “A great opportunity, it was awesome. I just knew I was going to try and keep it simple, shoot the puck and I was fortunate that it went in.”
The win was the fifth straight for the Blackhawks, who improved to 19-4-4. The Stars, who ended November with a 7-3-2 record, are 12-9-3 on the season.
“They’re the best for a reason,” said Benn. “They don’t panic in games, and they’re just a team that knows how to win. We played a pretty good game tonight, but we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”
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.