For two periods Sunday night the Dallas Stars looked as if they might be able to grab a point or maybe two on the second night of a back-to-back against the Chicago Blackhawks. But then the third period – a sore spot for the Stars this season – rolled around and once again it didn’t go well. Chicago scored four unanswered goals in the final period to defeat the Stars, 6-2, at United Center.
“We’re an inconsistent team,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “Sometimes we have three guys doing what they are supposed to do and two guys doing what they want. Sometimes we have five guys doing what we want, and it’s great. It’s not nearly consistent enough, and we can’t play like that.”
The game was tied 2-2 entering the third period, but the Blackhawks dominated the final 20 minutes. They outshot the Stars 23-5 and outscored Dallas 4-0. Chicago started the period with 1:50 of power play time after Ryan Garbutt was called for high sticking late in the second. The Blackhawks generated six shots in the first two minutes of the period and had the Stars on their heels.
Chicago took a 3-2 lead at the 4:49 mark when the Stars couldn’t clear the zone, and the result was Patrick Kane scoring from the bottom of the right circle. The Stars had some chances to tie, but Chicago would get goals from Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg and Brandon Saad over a 2:55 span later in the period to blow the game open.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t ready to use fatigue as an excuse for his team, which was playing the second night of a back-to-back and for the third time in four days, all of them in different cities.
“I think it’s more the issues we’ve had all season. We had full control of the puck and turned it over,” Ruff said. “I thought the Garbutt penalty gave them momentum and it seemed like that was kind of the turning point.”
The Stars are now 2-5-1 when tied after two periods. They’ve been outscored 27-11 in third periods this season.
“We’re just finding ways to give these games away,” said Stars forward Vernon Fiddler. “You look at a team like Chicago, they find a way to find some life. They create some momentum in our end in the d-zone, get us running around a little bit, and it ends up in the back of our net. That’s a good hockey team over there, but that’s the thing we have to find a way to do.”
Curtis McKenzie and Shawn Horcoff scored for the Stars, who are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games and 6-8-4 on the season. Kari Lehtonen went the distance in goal and stopped 41 of 47 shots.
The Blackhawks won for the third time in the last four games and improved to 10-7-1 on the season. Kane and Versteeg both had one goal and two assists.
“I thought we had some good stretches, said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “Second period we slowed a bit, but I thought we had good momentum in the first and third periods.”
The first period was fast-paced and featured four goals. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford came up with a big save on Cody Eakin 1:08 into the game and then 10 seconds later Kane set up Keith on a two-on-one rush to put the Blackhawks up 1-0 at the 1:18 mark of the first.
But the Stars bounced back with two goals in a 39-second span to take a 2-1 lead. Erik Cole sent the puck to the front of the net, where a charging McKenzie redirected it past Crawford to tie the game at 1-1 at the 4:49 mark. It was the first NHL goal for McKenzie.
“What a great play by [Jason] Spezza exiting the zone and then for Cole to hit me with the puck streaking down the middle,” McKenzie said. “I was just going hard to the net and tried to get a stick on it. I was lucky it went in. It was an exciting moment.”
Horcoff then banged home the rebound of a Vernon Fiddler shot at the 5:28 mark to put the stars up 2-1. Stars defenseman John Klingberg picked up an assist for his first NHL point.
Crawford came up big again, stopping a point-blank Cole bid at the 7:06 mark to keep it a one-goal game. The Blackhawks then tied the game, cashing in on their first power play of the night. Brent Seabrook’s shot from the point deflected off traffic and past Lehtonen at the 11:58 mark and the game was tied 2-2.
The Stars had a 9-8 shots advantage in a scoreless second period. That set up the third, where the Stars gave up four goals for the second time this season.
Now they face five straight games at home, where they are winless in their last six games (0-4-2) and are 1-4-4 this season.
“This will be the biggest point of the season come Tuesday,” said Ruff. “We have to make a stand.”
Moen makes Stars debut
*Forward Travis Moen, acquired last week from Montreal, made his Dallas Stars debut in Sunday night’s game. He started the game on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Vernon Fiddler. Moen played 10:42, had one shot on goal, two hits and was a plus-one.
*Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw dropped the gloves and waged a wild fight in the first period. The two fought last season as well.
*Stars forward Erik Cole registered his 500th career point with his assist on Curtis McKenzie’s first period goal.
*Chicago forward Brad Richards played in his 1,000th NHL game Sunday. Of those 1,000 games, 220 were played with Dallas.
*Chicago outshot the Stars 47-24. The 47 shots against were the most allowed by the Stars this season.
*Kris Versteeg and Marian Hossa had seven shots apiece for the Blackhawks.
*The Stars have scored two goals or fewer in seven of their last nine games.
*The Stars have allowed four goals or more in five of their last 11 games.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 36 of 73 faceoffs (49 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 9 of 15 draws (60 percent). Tyler Seguin won 8 of 14 (57 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 19 (47 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 17 (41 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 28:22 of ice time. John Klingberg was next with 25:28.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: D Kevin Connauton, RW Colton Sceviour
Injured: RW Patrick Eaves (lower body), RW Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin), D Patrik Nemeth (arm)
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.