It wasn’t easy in the end, but the Chicago Blackhawks were able to hang on for a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Andrew Shaw, Kris Versteeg, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa all picked up goals for the Hawks, who won their fourth game in their last five contests. Ryan Garbutt scored twice for the Stars, and Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves in a losing effort.
The first period got off to a bit of a sluggish start for the Blackhawks, as they seemed slow to get their legs underneath them. That pace of play benefitted the Stars, who were coming off a tough game on Monday night, but despite that fact they weren’t able to get many good opportunities for themselves as the contest proceeded at 0-0 from just about the entire period.
That all changed late in the frame as Cody Eakin was whistled for goaltender interference in the waning seconds of the frame, and thanks to some good puck luck and great hand-eye coordination they were able to take the lead. Jonathan Toews moved the puck to Patrick Sharp, and the sniper wound up and fired a shot into traffic. It ended up getting blocked, but Shaw was able to turn his hands over and shovel a backhanded shot past Kari Lehtonen to make it 1-0 Blackhawks with less than 20 seconds to go in the first period.
The second period started off on a much better note for the Blackhawks, as their aggressive play from the end of the first sparked them onward. Peter Regin and Johnny Oduya both picked up a couple of quality chances in the opening minutes, but Lehtonen was able to fight them off. He then had to fend off another great shot as Shaw deflected a shot from Sharp on the rush to keep the deficit at one.
The pace really opened up on both ends after those chances, and after Shawn Horcoff was unable to convert on a breakaway chance, the Blackhawks took advantage and extended their lead. Antoine Roussel turned the puck over near the blue line, and Kris Versteeg was able to pick it up. His attempted pass across the middle to Marian Hossa was deflected by Roussel, but unfortunately for the Dallas winger the puck flipped past Lehtonen and into the net to give Versteeg the goal and the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
The Stars did get a power play a short time later, but they were unable to figure out the really tough defense of the Hawks as the chance fell by the wayside. After a failed breakaway by Hossa after the power play’s conclusion though, the Stars did finally get on the board. Seguin fired a stretch pass off the boards and right onto the stick of Ryan Garbutt in the neutral zone, and the Stars forward scored on a nifty backhanded shot on the breakaway to make it a 2-1 hockey game.
The momentum didn’t last long for the visitors as the Blackhawks extended the lead back out to two goals. Shaw attempted to pass the puck across the ice to Sharp, but it ended up getting deflected into the corner. Sharp was able to chase it down, and slid a pass along the boards to Keith. The Hawks’ defenseman took a stride off the boards and blasted a slapshot that evaded Lehtonen, thanks in no small part to a screen by Michal Handzus, and Chicago grabbed a 3-1 advantage.
As the second period ended and the third period began though, the Stars really started to amp up the pressure. Seguin got two great chances at the end of the second, but Crawford was able to fight off the first with his glove and the second with his blocker as the frame came to an end. The pressure continued as the third started, with Seguin blasting a shot through traffic that Crawford was somehow able to tip away with his glove.
After some back and forth action through the middle stages of the period, the Stars were finally able to get some great offensive pressure and get back to within one. After Vernon Fiddler won a puck battle against Nick Leddy along the boards, Garbutt got to the front of the net and pounded a shot in on Crawford. The Hawks’ goaltender stopped the first one, but Garbutt’s second attempt flipped up in the air and barely dropped into the goal to make it 3-2 Blackhawks with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
The Blackhawks looked like they had iced the game in the closing minute when Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot from the defensive zone went into the empty net on the Dallas side of the ice, but the tally was immediately waved off as Ben Smith hit it down with a high stick as it made its way down the rink. About 20 seconds later the Hawks were able to finish the job, as the puck stayed in the offensive zone after a won face-off by the Stars. Hossa was the lucky Hawk as he backhanded a shot from the middle of the zone into the empty cage to seal the victory.
The Hawks will next take to the ice on Thursday night when they take on the Boston Bruins in Beantown in a Stanley Cup Final rematch.