The scoreboard read 5-2 at the end of the game, but it was a much closer affair at the American Airlines Center on this Saturday night. The Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars went to battle for the first time as Central Division rivals, and the Blackhawks made their first visit to Dallas since an 8-1 outburst in the 2013 season.
The Stars led twice in the game, including the opening goal, but the young defense and starting goaltender Kari Lethonen could not smother a high-powered Blackhawks offense on this night.
The Blackhawks’ fourth line of Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig started the game off right with a sizzling forecheck, but two straight Chicago penalties killed momentum just as fast. Chicago (whose penalty kill is ranked 30th in the NHL) killed both of them off successfully, but the Stars opened the scoring just seconds after time expired on the second penalty. Cody Eakin got credit for an ugly goal that found its way through Corey Crawford, after the puck was thrown on net by Trevor Daley. Eakin’s 5th of the year put the Stars up early, but it was not to last. The Blackhawks survived their third penalty of the period later on, and Marian Hossa tied the score with 3 minutes remaining in the first period. The two teams would head into the dressing rooms deadlocked at 1.
The Stars got the go-ahead goal once again, this time on the stick of Tyler Seguin in the second. Stars captain Jamie Benn did a great job of entering the zone, avoiding a pair of stick-checks before dishing to his Dallas team-mate for the sharp-angled score. Seguin’s 7th goal and Benn’s 10th assist gave the two players the team lead in those respective categories.
Patrick Kane sat for a pair of minutes after a delay of game penalty, but as soon as he stepped out of the box, he hooked up with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews to tie the score. Sharp fed Kane on the wing, and a great pass out to the slot left a gaping hole for the Blackhawks’ captain. Lethonen made the initial stop, but the puck seemed destined for the back of the net, and trickled over the line without any extra help from the ‘Hawks.
The Blackhawks closed off the second trying to take advantage on their only power-play of the night. Only 23 seconds into the man-advantage, Kane found himself scoring the goal, after two great passes on the rush by Sharp and center Andrew Shaw. Kane scored the game-winner for the second straight contest, and third overall this season.
The Blackhawks and Stars traded offense for most of the third period, but as the Stars got desperate, trying to equalize, the Blackhawks pulled away. Patrick Sharp’s fourth assist of the night was his prettiest, after spinning off a defender and sending a chip-pass to Marian Hossa for the breakaway marker, his second of the game. Niklas Hjalmarsson added a 200-foot empty netter on a late Dallas 6-on-4, and the Blackhawks skated out of Big D with two points.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was ranked dead last coming into tonight’s match-up, but didn’t allow any Dallas offense, going 5-for-5 against a struggling Dallas power-play.
On the other side of the special teams coin, the Blackhawks’ power-play was 100%, scoring on their only opportunity of the night.
Corey Crawford made 31 saves on the night, picking up his 10th win of the season.
Patrick Sharp was an easy choice for the game’s First Star, after 4 assists. Marian Hossa followed him in Second with his two-goal effort.
If you need your Blackhawks fix soon, don’t worry: Chicago is back in town to host the Oilers tomorrow night, with puck drop at 6:30 PM Central Time. You can catch the game on WGN and WGN Radio 720.
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