CHICAGO - It appears that the Chicago Blackhawks bring out the worst in the Dallas Stars.
Behind two goals and an assist from Martin Havlat and a goal and two assists from Jonathan Toews, Chicago rolled to a 6-2 victory over the listless Stars Saturday night at the United Center.
Just eight days after erupting for 10 goals in a rout of the New York Rangers, the Stars have managed just four in their last three outings.
The Blackhawks were skating at home for the first time since before the All-Star break after wrapping up an eight-game, 17-day road trip, the longest by an NHL team this season, the night before, but came out fired up.
Chicago has now won all three meetings between the clubs this year by a combined score of 17-7.
“They outplayed us, they were just a better team, had more jump,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “They executed, they played the game well, they played hard, they fore-checked hard and they did the little things and we didn’t do it. When you’re not willing to work and you’re not doing the details in the game, it’s pretty tough to win.”
Despite dropping two of their last three, Dallas is still 8-3-0 in their last 11 contests and 10-4-2 in their last 16, but missed a chance to give themselves a cushion in fifth place in the Western Conference standings. Now tied with both Anaheim and Columbus in fifth, Dallas trails Chicago by nine points for fourth and is just one up on ninth-place Vancouver.
“Coming into a game, if you look at the standings, that you think should be a real big game, and you can count how many players I felt played to capacity on one hand,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett. “It just happened that the goalie was one of them. Turco made some great saves early, but we didn’t have enough players that thought this game needed the urgency to get the job done.”
It was the third straight game that the club’s top line of Mike Ribeiro, Jere Lehtinen and Steve Ott were held off the scoresheet after combining for 36 points in the previous eight contests.
Goaltender Marty Turco, making his club record 26th straight start, was outstanding again, making 24 saves in two periods, but received little support in front of him and was eventually pulled.
“He played unbelievable,” Robidas said. “If it wasn’t for him, it could have been way more than that. He kept us in the game, he tried his best. You can’t rely on your goalie to win every game.”
Backup netminder Brent Krahn, who was recalled from AHL Chicago on Feb. 6, made his NHL debut when he replaced Turco for the final period. Krahn, 26, didn’t get off to a great start, surrendering his first NHL goal after just 42 seconds, but ended up with six saves on nine shots.
“It is a pretty big deal, I’m pretty excited,” said Krahn, who was the first-round selection (ninth overall) of the Calgary Flames in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. “I didn’t see it going quite like that, but things rarely work out the way you plan them and you just got to keep sticking with it. The guys were really supportive, I would’ve liked to make a few more saves for them, that’s for sure, but it’s one game down and just keep building.”
Each team opened the game with glorious scoring opportunities that were oh-so-close to going in, just 20 seconds apart, past the midway point of the opening period.
First, Chicago’s Patrick Kane was set up alone in front by Troy Brouwer and fired a quick wrist shot that Turco made a spectacular sliding, pad-stacking save, just getting enough of his skate on the puck to send it up over the crossbar.
Then, with 8:43 left in the period, Brad Richards sent a hard pass from the right corner, intended for Loui Eriksson in front, but it deflected off Chicago defender Matt Walker’s stick and clanked flush off the crossbar.
The Blackhawks snapped the scoreless tie on Brouwer’s eighth goal of the year with 6:33 remaining. Brouwer set up in front and after receiving a quick pass from behind the net by Toews, snapped a sharp one-timer past Turco.
Despite being outshot by a healthy 15-6 margin, Dallas trailed just 1-0 going into the second period, thanks primarily to some big saves from Turco.
Chicago extended their lead to two at 4:06 of the second. Defenseman Mark Fistric blocked Havlat’s wrist shot from the slot, but the puck ricocheted back into the slot, where Toews fed a short pass to a wide open Havlat, now at the right post, who then popped it into the open side of the net for a 2-0 Chicago lead.
Havlat notched his 19th of the season at 11:46 to push the Blackhawk lead to three. After a Dallas rush at the other end resulted in a Mike Modano turnover, Dave Bolland led the Chicago counter-attack. Originally a 3-on-1 break, defenseman Matt Niskanen hustled back into the play, but inadvertently bumped into Turco in the crease as Bolland fed Havlat trailing in the slot and Havlat’s wrist shot whizzed past the jostled netminder.
Chicago outshot the Stars by 12-6 in the second, giving them a 27-12 edge heading into the final period.
Krahn took his place in an NHL crease for the first time as the third began, but Chicago made it 4-0 just 42 seconds into the period. After he stopped shots by Brent Seabrook and Toews, Chicago worked it around behind the net and Brouwer poked it back into the crease, where Toews swatted it past a scrambling Krahn for his 18th goal of the season.
The Blackhawks struck again just 1:37 later when James Wisniewski’s slap shot was blocked by Trevor Daley, but the puck ricocheted right to Colin Fraser in the slot, and Fraser drilled a one-timer past Krahn to make it an unsightly 5-0.
Dallas began to pick up the pace a little bit after that and Brunnstrom snapped the shutout bid at 4:40 with his 12th of the season. Fellow rookie James Neal set up the play by lugging the puck up ice and carrying into the Chicago zone before dishing off to Mike Modano, who then fed a pretty cross-ice pass to the charging Brunnstrom in the right circle. Brunnstrom’s subsequent wrist shot beat Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet past the glove.
About five minutes later, Joel Lundqvist rang a wrist shot off the goalpost, but the Stars would get another one with 5:52 remaining to make the final score look a little closer than this game actually was. Sutherby emerged out of the right corner with the puck, fired a wrist shot from the circle that Huet stopped, but the rebound bounced up in the air and landed right in front, where Sutherby banged it home for his seventh of the year.
The Blackhawks then poured salt in the wounds by getting another one with just 4.2 seconds left in the game, as rookie Kris Versteeg received a pass from Andrew Ladd out of the left corner and whipped a wrist shot from the left circle past Krahn for his 16th of the year.
“Turk recognized what it is, it’s just too bad some other players didn’t recognize it, some people who have the opportunity to make a difference,” Tippett said of Turco’s performance. “We hung him out to dry. I felt sorry for Krahn, to go in there and have that happen to him. Our team certainly needs a strong refocusing from a large group of players.”
The Stars continue their mini two-game road trip with a date Monday in Columbus (6 pm, my27) against the Blue Jackets, yet another club in the gaggle of squads clumped up in the playoff race. After that, they will return home for a season-long six-game homestand.
“It’s really disappointing the way we showed up tonight and we’re not happy with that and we’re not proud of that,” Robidas said. “That’s not how we want to be perceived as a team, that’s not our team identity. Bottom line, we didn’t show up and we just got to realize that, get back at it tomorrow and get a good practice. We got a big game coming up on Monday in Columbus.”
- Sutherby’s goal gives him four goals in his last eight games after going scoreless in his first 15 games in a Stars uniform following his acquisition from Anaheim on December 14.
- Brunnstrom’s goal was his second in four games since he missed 16 with a lower body injury. He has four points (two goals, two assists) over that span.
- Neal’s assist on Brunnstrom’s goal gives him 10 points (five goals, five assists) in his last nine contests. He also led the Stars with four hits.
- Modano now has eight assists in the last nine games.
- Loui Eriksson picked up an assist on Sutherby’s goal, leaving him with eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last nine outings.
- Daley snapped a six-game points drought with an assist.
- Defenseman Mark Fistric, who was recalled from AHL Manitoba earlier in the day, played his first game for the Stars since Nov. 1. Paired primarily with Daley, Fistric logged an impressive 21:09 of ice time, registering a shot on goal and blocking two shots.
- To make room in the lineup for Fistric, blueliner Andrew Hutchinson sat out as a healthy scratch for the first time since Dec. 18.
- After failing to convert on their one power play opportunity, Dallas is now 0-for-7 over the last three games with the man advantage, after going 10-for-29 in the previous six games.
- Turco entered the day with a 14-3-1 lifetime record against the Blackhawks with a 1.95 goals-against-average and three shutouts.
- While the Stars have reeled off a 20-10-3 record since Nov. 30, fourth-best in the NHL over that span, Chicago actually edged them out for the third-best mark at 21-9-2 (.677).
- Since moving to Dallas for the 1993-94 season, Dallas has gone 35-21-12 against the Blackhawks, including a 15-6-2 mark in their past 23 meetings.
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