DALLAS - Maybe the Dallas Stars should re-evaluate their aspirations to finish higher than sixth place in the Western Conference.
The pesky Chicago Blackhawks swept the four-game season series with the Stars following a convincing 3-1 win over Dallas on Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center, the first time since the Stars joined the league in 1967 that they failed to garner at least a point during their regular-season series against the team that clearly has their number this year.
That's why the Stars may not want to be sitting in fifth place when the season ends in April. With Chicago firmly entrenched in fourth, a potential postseason matchup with the Blackhawks isn't very enticing.
After being outscored by a 20-8 margin in four losses to the Blackhawks this season, the Stars shouldn't wish for any treks to Chi-town in a couple of months.
"Losing four games to these guys is disheartening," said Marty Turco, who made his 29th consecutive start. "When you look at where these guys, they're a talented group of guys that play really fast. We just weren't getting to the right areas enough."
Playing against the best road team in the West, one of the hottest home teams in the league had their hands full. The Stars, who dropped just their second home tilt in their last nine, seldom won footraces to loose pucks, and their physical play -- they outhit the Blackhawks by an impressive 51-21 count -- didn't create that big of an obstacle for Chicago to eventually overcome.
"We just can't get points against these guys," defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "These are points that we need, and we have to have to get both of them. Guys have to have commitment, focus and attention to detail. We can't fall short and we've got to be ready every night. Every year you have that one team that you just can't gets points against. It's frustrating and it's difficult. We have to be better as a team."
Steve Ott scored the lone goal, and Turco made 33 saves for Dallas, which lost for only the fourth time in its last 14 games.
James Wisniewski, Patrick Kane and Matt Walker scored for the Blackhawks, who've won four straight overall and eight of their last 11 on the road. Goalie Cristobal Huet, making his fifth straight start with Nikolai Khabibulin still sidelined with a lower-body injury, finished with 30 saves.
"The last two times we've played them, they've taken it to us," forward Brian Sutherby said. "They force us to dump pucks, they make us chase the game and we are just not skating. Marty has been playing unbelievable lately and he made some big saves tonight, but we didn't do enough to support him."
The loss prevented the Stars from leapfrogging both Columbus and Vancouver and into fifth place in the West. Dallas continues to be in seventh place with 65 points.
"We looked like a tired, frustrated team chasing the game," coach Dave Tippett said. "We can't have any weak links right now. Our group is thin as it is and we need everyone on board. We aren't getting enough second chances on the power play, and we didn't execute well enough. Too many telegraphed pucks, blocked shots…not enough of the little things."
Ott spoiled Huet's shutout bid with 8:29 left in regulation, potting his 12th of the year a minute after Turco stopped Dustin Byfuglien's breakaway attempt. Ott collected Trevor Daley's chip out of the Dallas zone that ended up in the Chicago end, and neatly flipped the puck past Huet.
"It's one of those games you need all 20 guys and if it doesn't go that way it goes the other way very quickly," Ott said. "We've got to dig deep and its going to be like a playoff series for the next few months and we've got to have everyone."
Up by a goal after 20 minutes, Kane boosted Chicago's edge to 2-0 seven minutes into the second period with his 19th of the year. With a delayed penalty about to be called on Stephane Robidas, Troy Brouwer's cross-ice pass from the bottom of the right circle deflected of Jere Lehtinen's stick right to Kane, who was standing at the bottom of the crease to the left of Turco. Kane easily swiped the puck in for his fourth goal against the Stars this season.
Turco kept the game manageable by making one of the best saves of the season with just under four minutes to go in the second period and Chicago still up by two. Sliding to his right after Kane fed a streaking Jonathan Toews at the bottom of the left circle, Turco quickly rolled onto his stomach before flinging his left leg into the air to deny the labeled chance with the back of his left skate.
"You don't know what's always going to work, so when you get into those types of situations it's all about reacting," Turco said about the electric save. "It usually stems from how you practice. Out of the corner of my eye I knew he hadn't shot it yet. You think he's going to go high and you stick a leg up and hope you get lucky. Over the last little bit the rhythm seems to be off and we're giving up more chances than usual and more shots than usual."
Ten seconds later, Brian Campbell was whistled for a tripping penalty, but the Stars weren't able to take advantage of an opportunity that would soon come back to haunt them.
Over a minute after Campbell was set free, the Blackhawks made the Stars pay when Walker made it 3-0 with 16 seconds left in the middle frame. At the left point, Walker one-timed a rolling puck that knuckled past Turco for his first of the season.
Wisniewski gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with just under four minutes left in the first period while on the power play. From the top of the right circle, Wisniewski was able to one-time Martin Havlat's pass from the bottom of the right circle for only his second goal of the year.
The Stars continue their six-game homestand on Monday when they host the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks (7 p.m., VERSUS). The Sharks went into their game Saturday at Atlanta on a two-game roll, and will start a four-game road trip when they appear at American Airlines Center.
"We start Monday night against San Jose," Ott said. "We've got to be ready to rock, they've got a great team and we've got to bring our 'A' game and have all 20 guys contributing. We have to play better as a group. We just need more. We have no choice. We've got to give that little bit more or we're going to falter."
--Lehtinen played in his 799th career NHL game.
--Wisniewski's power-play goal was the first surrendered by the Stars at home since Feb. 6 against the New York Rangers.
--It was only the second time in their last eight games that the Stars allowed three or more goals.
--The last time the Stars were swept in a season series was in 1996-97 against San Jose.
--Dallas fell to 10-3 at home against Chicago since 2001.
--It was Ott's first goal since he scored one in each of three consecutive games starting on Feb. 5 against Colorado.
--Daley extended his points streak to four games (0-4-4).
--Dallas went 0-for-3 on the power play.
--Turco fell to 14-5 in 22 appearances against the Blackhawks.