The Chicago Blackhawks are a team to be feared down the stretch, as the Dallas Stars found out on Tuesday night as the two Central Division rivals finished their 2013-14 season series.
It would be a full rotation before Blackhawks fans got their first taste of top prospect Teuvo Teravainen, as his line with Brandon Saad and Ben Smith was out fourth. After a loud cheer, he dissapeared to the bench, and was not seen for quite some time. After 10 minutes, Brandon Bollig had three shifts and a minor penalty in the time Teravainen had one shift. Teuvo was on the ice for the first power-play unit of the night, where Andrew Shaw scored a beautiful back-hander to put the ‘Hawks up 1-0 with less than a minute remaining in the period. Chicago finished the first 20 up 1-0, and 16-8 in shots. However, Corey Crawford had to be sharp on several grade-A scoring chances to keep the Dallas offense from striking.
The Blackhawks kept up the tempo entering the middle frame, with several minutes of back-and-forth action. Chicago broke through when Kris Versteeg‘s pass to Marian Hossa was redirected off a Dallas stick, and through Kari Lehtonen, for a 2-0 lead. After Hossa nearly added to the lead, Ryan Garbutt scored five-hole on his second break-away of the game, cutting the lead in half. It wouldn’t last, however, as Duncan Keith wired his sixth goal of the season by Lehtonen, restoring the lead. Crawford held strong with 11 saves in the period, as the ‘Hawks skated off the ice 20 minutes away from a divisional win.
The Blackhawks took care of their own end in the third, but couldn’t stop Ryan Garbutt from scoring his second goal of the game in a scramble in front of the crease. However, thanks to some gutsy shot-blocking by Niklas Hjalmarsson and his crew, that was as close as the Stars would come. Marian Hossa added an empty-netter after Hjalmarsson’s bid was waved off due to a high stick, and after a delay due to a Brandon Bollig and Antoine Roussel fight, the game was over: Blackhawks win, 4-2.
Teravainen was eased into his NHL debut, recording 11:39 of TOI. In addition to his perfect faceoff record, Teuvo had noticeably well-played shifts in the defensive zone, as well as a tease of his offensive potential on several occasions, leaving Blackhawks’ fans impressed with the 19-year old.
An extra tidbit from Tuesday’s game: In the first intermission, Ben Smith told radio reporters that Teuvo thought the game was “slow”, and there were “too many whistles”.
Corey Crawford earned win #29 on the season with a 25-save effort, which included several five-star stops in the first and second period. Kari Lehtonen faced 41 shots at the other end, and pulled together a solid 38-save performance, albeit with some regrettable goals by the Blackhawks.
Duncan Keith was in pure Norris Trophy form on Monday, recording 27:09 of TOI, as well as the game-winning goal and an assist, earning the game’s First Star award. Niklas Hjalmarsson wasn’t too far behind Keith, with 3 hits, 3 blocks, and 26:14 of ice time.
The ‘Hawks win in their final game of the season series was the first by a home team, and their fifth Blackhawks’ win at home in their past six. Chicago now embarks on a three-game road trip that will see a date with the Boston Bruins on Thursday, as well as visits to the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Phoenix Coyotes’ win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night influenced both teams: The Blackhawks could not clinch a playoff spot with the win, and Dallas falls three points behind the “Yotes in the Wild Card race.
The Stars head home for two days of rest before a double-header against the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, making it four straight Central Division opponents for the club.
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