CHICAGO - Eleven different Stars found the score sheet, and Alex Auld earned his stripes as a Dallas Star, stopping 29 of 32 shots as Dallas held on to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday night.
Auld, playing in just his second game of the season, provided a backbone for the Stars, who were playing their second game in as many nights.
Chicago got off to a hot start, winning 12 of 16 faceoffs in the opening frame and producing 13 scoring chances, but were unable to make any of those chances stand up on the scoreboard. Chicago outshot the Stars 14-5 in the first period.
“We knew the first period was going to be a difficult one for two reasons: Chicago comes out strong and their crowd is such a big part of energizing everybody in the building,” Dallas head coach Marc Crawford said.
James Neal and Jamie Benn registered the first shots of the game, but the Stars would not force Chicago goaltender Cristobal Huet to make another save for the next 10 minutes. In the meantime, Chicago took 10 shots on Auld at the other end. Although Dallas spent the majority of the first period chasing the Blackhawks’ forwards around their own zone, Auld stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first frame to keep the Stars afloat.
Dallas’ best first period opportunity came at the 15:08 mark when Trevor Daley made a quick pass to Jamie Benn in the high slot. Huet closed down the angle and prevented a rebound to keep the game scoreless.
In the second period, the floodgates opened up.
Brenden Morrow got the scoring started for Dallas just 2:17 into the period when he jammed a trickling rebound past Huet’s glove. Morrow’s initial one-timer from Fabian Brunnstrom was stopped, but he backhanded the rebound through traffic to put the Stars ahead 1-0.
Three minutes later, Jamie Benn won a puck battle behind Huet and passed the puck to Matt Niskanen at the right point. Niskanen’s shot deflected off the skate of Ribeiro—who crept around to the back of the crease moments before—to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
But Chicago answered just 34 seconds later when Neal turned the puck over in the Dallas zone. Chicago’s Andrew Ladd beat Neal back to the puck, and got the puck to Troy Brouwer at the right point. Brouwer fired a wrist shot high past Auld’s blocker to cut Dallas’ lead to 2-1.
Toby Petersen made it 3-1 midway through the period when he scored a soft goal from the left wall. Petersen took a pass from Krystofer Barch in the neutral zone, and carried it into the Chicago zone before blasting a long slap shot past the glove of Huet.
Petersen’s goal put Dallas back up by two goals, and seemed to deflate the Blackhawks until they capitalized off of a blunder by Auld.
On what looked like a routine dump-in to the Dallas zone, Auld misplayed the puck behind his net, losing it to Patrick Sharp, who was streaking in to apply pressure. Sharp passed the puck to Toews, who scored into an unoccupied Dallas goal from a sharp angle. Toews’ goal cut Dallas’ lead to 3-2 heading into the final period.
In the third, Chicago may have eliminated their best chances of coming back with four penalties.
Chicago awarded the Stars two power plays early in the third frame, first when Ladd was called for a high stick on Nicklas Grossman. While on the man-advantage, Mike Ribeiro drew a slashing minor on Brent Seabrook to give the Stars a 5-on-3 advantage for 14 seconds. However, the Stars were unable to put an insurance goal on the scoreboard.
While Seabrook was in the penalty box, Chicago produced a quality scoring chance when Colin Fraser and Kris Versteeg broke in the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 break. Fraser missed the goal with a wrist shot, and Auld turned aside Versteeg’s five-hole attempt seconds later.
Dallas finally got the insurance goal it was looking for with 9:33 remaining in regulation when Stephane Robidas scored a goal that could only be described as bizarre. Robidas wired the puck from center ice high around the boards in the Chicago zone. The puck hit a corner of the glass and bounced slowly along the goal line and in off Huet’s glove for Dallas’ fourth goal.
“I just had the puck in the neutral zone and there was no sense for me to try to do something stupid so I just tried to rim it,” Robidas said. “I didn’t do anything special.”
Chicago did not roll over, applying pressure at the Dallas end for the rest of the game.
Niklas Hjalmarsson scored for Chicago to make it 4-3 on a slap shot from the top of the zone that beat a screened Auld on the glove side. It was the first of the season for Hjalmarsson and it gave life to the Blackhawks’ effort.
But with 3:22 remaining, Chicago’s Brent Sopel took a costly hi-sticking penalty after Tom Wandell made a nifty move to get some space in the Chicago zone.
Dallas would not enjoy the full duration of the power play, as Brenden Morrow took an interference minor about a minute later in the Dallas zone. After Sopel returned to the ice, Chicago went on the man advantage for over a minute, providing plenty of opportunities to tie the game.
In the waning moments, Auld and the Dallas defense held tight, blocking shots and clearing pucks. Huet was removed for an extra attacker with 1:12 left, giving the Blackhawks a 6-on-4 advantage. Despite a flurry of chances late, Chicago was unable to force overtime. A Cam Barker shot hit Wandell and bounced out of the zone as Morrow’s penalty expired, and Dallas held on for the win.
“It’s a good challenge. It’s kind of fun. You have to battle, and you know you have to be up for that and find the pucks. It can be tough, but it worked out tonight,” Auld said.