Thanks to two goals by Patrick Sharp and two more from Brandon Saad, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to coast to an easy 6-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in the Lone Star State.
In his first game as the Hawks’ starting goaltender in place of the injured Corey Crawford, Antti Raanta made 27 saves, and Mike Kostka and Patrick Kane also picked up goals for the Hawks as they won their second game in three days.
The game got off to a bit of a quirky start as the Hawks established some good possession early on. In an odd sequence, a Kostka shot from the slot ended up bouncing off of a couple of Dallas players and somehow trickled into the Dallas net. Initially, the officials didn’t make a call on the ice, but after video review, it was ruled that the puck did cross the goal line, and the Hawks got a 1-0 lead on one of Kostka’s first shifts back after missing a huge chunk of time with a leg injury.
The next portion of the game was dominated by failed power plays on both sides, but the Stars couldn’t match the ineptitude that the Hawks showed in a 5-on-3 sequence in the middle stages of the period. Despite having an absolutely dominant possession of nearly a minute and a half, the Hawks couldn’t get the puck past Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen, and they ended up without a tally on that power play.
Usually, the team that kills off a lengthy 5-on-3 gets a big boost from it, but Kane was quick to squash any potential rally by the Stars. Grabbing a pass that Brent Seabrook feathered in between two different Stars defenders, Kane collected the puck just outside of the faceoff circle, and skated in alone on Lehtonen before beating him with a quick forehand-to-backhand deke to put the Blackhawks up 2-0.
Both teams got a couple of good opportunities in the closing stages of the period, with Brandon Bollig barely missing a wide open cage on a fantastic pass from Marcus Kruger on the Hawks’ best chance. The Stars followed that up with a good possession of their own, but Raanta was up to the task, making a couple of great saves in a row to send the Blackhawks into the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
The second period started out just like the first did for the Hawks, with constant pressure and an early goal to show for the efforts. Nick Leddy made a great initial play to keep a clearing attempt in the zone, and Saad ended up executing a gorgeous sticklift on the backcheck to prevent Jamie Benn from bringing the puck out as well, and the Hawks got to work. Kostka got the puck alongside the goal, and when his shot was stopped by Lehtonen, it was Andrew Shaw who jumped on the rebound and pushed it to a wide open Saad in front of the cage for the easy goal and a 3-0 lead for the Blackhawks.
After a penalty by Ryan Garbutt put the Hawks back on the power play, it was Sharp who did the honors in scoring his third power play goal in two games. Once again, it was a shot from the point that was aided by a great screen by Shaw in front of Lehtonen, and in an instant the Hawks were up 4-0, and Lehtonen was heading in for an early shower.
Before Dan Ellis had even fully settled into his crease, the Blackhawks struck again. Duncan Keith collected the puck behind the Blackhawks’ net, and after a quick survey of the ice, fired an absolute rocket of a slap pass across the blue and red lines to a streaking Sharp, who carried the puck in and roofed a shot past Ellis to give the Blackhawks a 5-0 lead.
At that point in the game, the Blackhawks had five goals and the Stars only had six SHOTS on goal, but their luck was about to change. When Raanta was slow to get over to cover the near post, Antoine Roussel picked up a pass next to the cage and poked home the shot to get Dallas on the board, but the green-clad Stars still trailed 5-1.
After a couple of tense moments in the defensive zone, the Blackhawks surrendered another power play as Sharp went to the box for hooking, but some good defense and a penalty by Erik Cole ended that power play early.
To rub salt into the wound of the Stars’ failure on the man-advantage, Saad made them pay a short time later with his second goal of the game. On the play, Saad circled around the back of the net, and tried to find Kane on the doorstep with a pass. Instead, Ellis tried to intercept the pass with his stick blade, and he flipped it over his own shoulder into the net to put the Blackhawks up 6-1 just before the end of the second period.
The third period proceeded with neither team really racking up any chances, and that was just fine with the Blackhawks. Double-shifting their third and fourth lines, the Hawks basically tried to take the air out of the puck, and they were largely able to do so, limiting Dallas’ possession time and holding onto the puck as much as possible.
The Stars did get a couple of power play opportunities in the frame, but despite getting some traffic to the front of the net on those man-advantage situations, Raanta was able to fight his way through the screens and stop every shot that somehow made its way to him.
Just before the end of the game, the Stars were able to tack on a meaningless goal as Sergei Gonchar's shot was deflected in front of the net by Roussel to bring the Stars to within a 6-2 margin.
The Blackhawks will look to extend their winning streak on Wednesday night when the Philadelphia Flyers come to the United Center in a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.