The Dallas Stars hung tough against the top team in the league Monday night, but in the end the Chicago Blackhawks proved to be a little too much. The Blackhawks scored two goals in a 3:15 span of the third period to snap a 2-2 tie and went on to a 5-2 victory at United Center, snapping the Stars’ winning streak at five games.
The Stars showed some resiliency in the game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to tie the game on a couple of goals by center Jamie Benn.
“We wish when we got it tied we could have held a little bit. That’s the way it goes. They are a real good hockey club,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “These streaks come to an end at some time, but it is important for us to take the good, dust ourselves off, we’ve got a day off tomorrow, we’ve got to practice and we’ve got six games left. It’s about regrouping more than anything else.”
“We really hung in there for a majority of the game and to start that third we gave ourselves a chance there,” said Stars goaltender Richard Bachman. “Overall, I think we can move forward these last six games and know we can play against anyone.”
The Stars (21-18-3) dropped to tenth place in the Western Conference standings after the loss, but remain just two points out of the final playoff spot with a half-dozen games remaining in the regular season.
“It sucks to lose, but we can’t worry about it,” said Bachman, who made 23 saves. “We’ve got Vancouver coming up (Thursday) and that’s all we can worry about now.”
The Blackhawks jumped on the Stars early, outshooting them 13-4 and taking a 1-0 lead in the first period. Marian Hossa sent a pass from the right circle to the front of the net, where Jonathan Toews redirected the puck past Bachman 12:54 into the game.
Chicago extended the lead to 2-0 at 12:14 of the second when Michael Handzus set up Viktor Stalberg, who split the Dallas defense, broke in on net and roofed a shot over Bachman.
But the Stars were able to bounce back, despite being down a forward after Alex Chiasson left the game early in the second period with a shoulder injury.
Benn scored on a three-on-one rush at 14:12 of the second period to cut the lead to 2-1.
Benn struck again 3:07 into the third period, beating Chicago goaltender Ray Emery from the top of the right circle to make it a 2-2 game.
But Chicago took the lead for good 1:24 later when Andrew Shaw scored off the rush. And 3:15 after that Hossa set up Niklas Hjalmarsson, who scored off a blast from the slot and Chicago had a 4-2 and control of the game again. Hossa scored into an empty net with 26.9 seconds left to round out the scoring.
It was the sixth straight win for Chicago, which improved to 33-5-4 on the season.
“It’s exciting, you know?” said Emery, who made 16 saves. “You kind of feed off of the energy of the guys around you, and every night it’s different guys. Lately it’s been a consistent effort by most guys on the ice. It’s really exciting being a part of that and gearing up for the playoffs.”
For the Stars, they are still in a fight to make the playoffs. They’ll take the positives out of this one and move forward.
“We kept it close. We definitely know what we have to do to be the best and beat the best,” said Benn. “Hopefully we can just keep pushing here. We’ve still got a chance to make the playoffs and that’s what we are going for.”
*Stars forward Alex Chiasson left the game early in the second period after a hit by Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Chiasson is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.
*Goaltender Kari Lehtonen skated Monday morning, but missed his third straight game with a groin injury.
*The Stars had 18 shots in the game. It was the third straight game they’ve been held under 20 shots.
*The Stars were 4-4 on the penalty kill and are 28-31 (90.3 percent) on the penalty kill in their last 12 road games.
*Stars forward Jamie Benn snapped a seven game goal-scoring drought with his two goals Monday night. He now has 10 on the season and is tied with Loui Eriksson and Ray Whitney for the team lead.