Playing their second game in less than 24 hours and tied 3-3 going into the final 20 minutes, the Stars dominated the third period, outshooting Chicago 14-5 and scoring three times to put the game away.
“We’ve been in this situation before, coming in here after two periods and being tied,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We came in here and talked about it. We just wanted to get the job done tonight. That was all that was on our minds, and we found a way to win.”
“It was just digging in,” said Eakin, whose power play goal early in the third held up as the game-winner. “It was back and forth. They started strong; we didn’t. We pulled up our socks. We played a strong third, which we needed. That was the difference.”
Lehtonen made the difference early and at other key times in the game. He had seven saves in the first couple minutes of the game as Chicago pinned the Stars in their own end right off the opening puck drop. Lehtonen came up huge again late in the second as Chicago pressed for the go-ahead goal. Lehtonen ended up with 38 saves on 41 shots.
“Yesterday (win over Washington) some good things happened to me, some good saves and it kind of continued today,” said Lehtonen. “It was nice to get back in the action, get a lot of chances and get two wins. That was good.”
The Stars had 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the game, but Chicago battled back to tie. The Stars took the lead for good early in the third with a power play goal. Benn sent a cross-ice pass to Tyler Seguin, who quickly tapped it to Eakin, who scored from close range to put Dallas up 4-3 at the 2:58 mark.
“Big power-play goal,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We knew we weren’t probably going to get too many power plays and that opportunity is an opportunity we’ve had earlier in the year that we hadn’t taken advantage of. At that time of the game, it’s a big power play, it’s a big goal for your team. Gives us a little bit of momentum. It makes them gamble a little bit more. I think when you saw that, you saw the odd-numbered rushes, and you saw even better opportunities on our part.”
And the Stars cashed in on one of those opportunities to extend the lead to 5-3. Jason Spezza made a slick play to set up Erik Cole on a two-on-one midway through the third to put the Stars up 5-3. Shawn Horcoff rounded out the scoring with a late empty net goal.
Eakin had two goals and one assist for the Stars, Seguin had one goal and one assist and Benn registered three assists. The Stars won for the first time on the second night of a back-to-back this season (1-4-1). It was their second straight win and pulled them to within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re battling hard to climb up the ladder. We took it a period at a time, and it was good to see the guys push through,” Ruff said.
Chicago lost its seconds straight game and fell to 3-5-0 over its past eight games.
“It was almost a carbon copy of what we saw last game (4-2 loss to Winnipeg),” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tight hockey game, we take a penalty, they score off the rush, and then they score quickly after that. It was exactly what happened last game.”
The Stars and Blackhawks combined for five goals and 34 shots on goal in the first period. Chicago controlled play early, pinning the Stars in their own end and putting seven shots on goal in the first 2:40 of the game. But Lehtonen was sharp in goal for the Stars to keep Chicago from grabbing the early lead.
“Use whatever adjective you want,” said Ruff. “In a back-to-back situation, I thought he answered the bell for us. He stood tall in a couple of real tough situations.”
Seguin tallied from the slot off a Benn faceoff win at the 6:33 mark to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. The Stars extended it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal a little more than four minutes later. Benn set up Eakin, who scored from close range off the rush at the 10:49 mark.
Chicago bounced back to tie. Patrick Kane knocked in the rebound of a Brent Seabrook shot at 12:22 of the first. Brandon Saad scored off the rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot with Chicago the power play at the 17:00 mark.
But the Stars regained the lead with 48.4 seconds left in the first period when John Klingberg’s shot from the point hit the post and Vernon Fiddler put home the rebound to make it a 3-2 game going into the first intermission.
The Blackhawks scored the only goal of the second. Saad scored on a spinning shot from the slot off the rush to tie the game 3-3 at the 7:13 mark. Lehtonen came up big at the end of the period, stopping eight shots over the final 2:47 to keep it an even game and set the stage for the Stars’ big third period.
*The Stars are 5-1-2 in their past eight road games.
*The Stars improved to 3-9-5 against the Central Division.
*Chicago outshot the Stars 41-34.
*The Stars are 12-7-4 when outshot by their opponents. They are 6-10-3 when they outshoot the opposition.
*Ryan Garbutt and Jason Demers co-led the Stars with five shots on goal.
*The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 37 of 71 faceoffs (52 percent).
*Eakin won 12 of 16 faceoffs (75 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 18 (50 percent). Jason Spezza won 5 of 12 (42 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 12 (42 percent).
*The Stars blocked 20 shots. Demers and Jordie Benn led the Stars with four each.
*Demers led the Stars with 25:00 of ice time.
*Stars forward Shawn Horcoff and Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp dropped the gloves in a spirited fight midway through the second period.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: David Schlemko, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Trevor Daley (undisclosed), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), 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.