The Dallas Stars gave the Chicago Blackhawks their best punch through 40 minutes, but thanks to a power play goal by Patrick Sharp and a shootout goal by Patrick Kane, the Hawks had the last laugh as they won a 3-2 decision on Thursday night in the season opener.
Duncan Keith also scored for the Blackhawks, who helped Corey Crawford to the win as their goaltender made 32 saves in the game. Trevor Daley and Cody Eakin both scored goals in the second period for the Stars, but it wasn't enough as the Hawks drew first blood in the Central Division.
In the first seven minutes of the game, the Blackhawks didn’t have a single shot on goal, but fortunately the Stars weren’t able to capitalize despite a wave of possession. Crawford was in top form in the early going, even making a couple of saves without a stick as the Hawks stayed in a scoreless tie.
Finally, with a little less than a minute remaining in the period, the Blackhawks ended up being the team that got on the board first. With Patrick Sharp showing some good patience as he circled the net, Brent Seabrook broke open at the point. Sharp found him with a pass, and when Seabrook pushed a one-time pass to Keith, the defenseman uncorked a wicked slap shot through Kari Lehtonen’s legs, and just like that it was 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
Early in the second period the Stars had a power play thanks to a penalty on Keith, but once again Crawford was strong. Tyler Seguin had a great chance after the Stars cycled the puck to him, but Crawford muscled away the one-timer. Ryan Garbutt then had a great breakaway chance for Dallas, but the Hawks’ goaltender was still up to the task as the team kept the lead.
The Blackhawks’ good run of penalty killing came to an abrupt end later in the period as the Stars scored. With Niklas Hjalmarsson in the box for a four-minute minor, Trevor Daley managed to catch a puck that deflected off Keith’s skate, and as he dropped it he whacked it out of midair and over Crawford’s shoulder to tie things up at 1-1.
Crawford made another great save on a breakaway by Shawn Horcoff, but the Stars kept pushing and eventually scored again. With the puck pinballing in front of the net, Eakin snagged it and took advantage of the scramble to rip a shot off the post and into the net to give Dallas a 2-1 lead with about five minutes left in the frame.
The Blackhawks did get a power play late in the period, but they were unable to take advantage as the horn sounded after 40 minutes.
On an early third period power play, the Blackhawks finally were able to show some life. Andrew Shaw in particular had a nice shift as the Hawks were in the Dallas zone for the entire two minutes, but despite chances from Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks still couldn’t punch in a goal.
After more great possession by several lines (including a reunited line of Toews and Kane with Bryan Bickell), the Blackhawks got another power play and were able to convert. Off the face-off, Sharp retrieved the puck along the boards and fired in a shot on goal. Lehtonen was unable to get a good read on the play, and the shot dipped past his glove to tie things up at 2-2.
In the final minutes of the game, the Blackhawks had a couple of opportunities to score, but the Stars were able to face overtime. Marian Hossa made a nice drive to the net on one particularly good chance, but Lehtonen made the stop. Brad Richards then crashed the crease and nearly fired a rebound past the goaltender, but somehow he was able to kick across the crease and make the stop to help force overtime.
After the extra stanza failed to solve things, the two teams headed to the shootout. Jason Spezza was denied by Crawford in the first round, and then Toews was stopped by Lehtonen to keep it scoreless. Seguin then fired a shot past the post, but Kane was able to finally give the Hawks the lead after he lifted a backhanded shot just under the post. When Ales Hemsky lost the puck on the third Dallas attempt, Crawford smothered it and secured the victory for the Hawks.
The Blackhawks will open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday night when they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to the United Center.