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Stars head into holiday break with impressive 4-0 win over Chicago

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars head into the NHL’s holiday break on a roll. The Stars won their third straight game, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 before a sellout crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center Tuesday night.

The win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks came in a highly charged atmosphere in the building and a tight, playoff-style game that was scoreless through the first 29 minutes and a 1-0 game heading into the third period.

“The atmosphere in the building was playoff-like. Both teams, the way they started, it looked like it was going to be a really close game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “[Our performance] was excellent. I’m proud of the way the guys played. They played hard and played the right way.”

“Everything, even the fans, it was a loud building tonight and the way both teams played. We played really hard. We didn’t give them anything for free,” said Stars goaltender Antti Niemi. “[Winning] in these games against our division, it’s huge. That’s how we want to play every game, but especially these big games.”

The Stars were impressive, especially for a team coming off a game the night before in Minnesota. They killed off two Chicago power plays in the first period, and then Jason Spezza struck on the Stars’ first power-play chance midway through the game to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. Patrick Sharp scored 11 seconds into the third period to extend the Stars’ lead and take some of the steam out of Chicago’s game.

“That one felt good,” Sharp said of scoring against his former team. “There were not a lot of offensive chances for both sides through the first 40 minutes. … I didn’t think I had a real good chance of scoring so I wanted to make sure I got a good shot off.”

The Stars took the game over after that, and Colton Sceviour and Mattias Janmark scored goals to put the Blackhawks away. The Stars outshot Chicago 17-3 over the final 20 minutes.

“I worried about our energy going into the third. I didn’t know where we’d be. We dug in and found another level. I was really proud of the effort these guys put out tonight,” Ruff said.

Niemi stopped all 20 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season and the 35th of his career. He improved to 15-5-2 on the season. The Stars hit the break with a 26-7-2 record. Their 54 points are the most in the NHL.

Chicago (20-12-4) had a three-game winning streak snapped.

“[The Stars are] a good team, we’ll give them credit for the energy they brought tonight. We didn’t quite match in the third, and the score ended up being pretty lopsided,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. “But all in all, we’ve been doing a lot of good things lately, and we’ve played a ton of hockey. Not using that as an excuse, but in some way, I think the four days we have coming up will be good for us. We’ve got to be ready to come back and play with more energy in the next one than we did tonight.”

There was no scoring in the first period, which had a lot of pace to it. Chicago had two power plays in the period but failed to register a shot on either. That left the Stars with a 7-3 shots advantage through 20 minutes.

The Blackhawks came out with a strong push in the second, registering the first seven shots of the period. But Niemi had sharp saves on Artemi Panarin and Rob Scuderi to keep it a scoreless game. The Stars went on their first power play of the game at the 7:27 mark of the second and cashed in to take a 1- 0 lead.

Spezza drove the net down the right side and beat Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford from close range at the 9:12 mark.

“I was trying to get the goalie off the post. He didn’t want to move, and I just snuck it in there,” Spezza said.

Niemi came up with two more big saves late in the period, stopping Ryan Garbutt on a two-on-one and then denying a rebound attempt by Andrew Desjardins to keep it a 1-0 game heading into the third period.

Sharp made it a 2-0 game 11 seconds into the third, scoring from the right circle off the rush and celebrating the goal with an emphatic fist pump.

“I thought Patrick’s look at the start of the third period was the one that really put a knife in them right off the bat,” Ruff said.

The Stars extended the lead to 3-0 less than three minutes later when Sceviour tipped in a Jordie Benn shot from the point at the 2:57 mark. Janmark scored at the 14:36 mark when his centering pass bounced off Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival’s skate and past Crawford, pushing the Dallas lead to 4-0 and sending the Stars into the break with an impressive win against a top team and a key division rival.

“It’s all part of the growing process for our team. I think everybody seems to bring their best to us every night; we’re going to see the best from teams,” said Spezza. “Chicago is Chicago. They bring fans with them; they bring an intense atmosphere, and they’re always exciting games. I thought we handled ourselves pretty well tonight. I think it’s good. It’s all about learning through the regular season, getting better as a team, getting ourselves in situations, up goals, down goals and just trying to be comfortable in it.”

*The Stars have outscored their opponents 16-5 in the past three games.

*The Stars are 3-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

*The Stars are 5-2-0 vs. the Central Division.

*The Stars have outscored their opponents 50-33 in third periods this season.

*The Stars have allowed 13 goals in their past seven games (1.86 per game).

*The Stars outshot Chicago 32-20 and had a 66-49 advantage in attempted shots.

*Colton Sceviour led the Stars with six shots on goal and eight attempted shots.

*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*Dallas won 28 of 49 faceoffs (57 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 10 of 15 faceoffs (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 11 (73 percent). Tyler Seguin won 7 of 12 (58 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 23:52 of ice time.

The Stars will take a short holiday break and then return to action this weekend, playing Saturday at St. Louis and then hosting the Blues at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Mattias JanmarkVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen

Injured: None

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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