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Blackhawks' penalty killing pivotal in win over Stars
DALLAS -- Special teams can be the difference between winning and losing in today's NHL. And in a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday at the American Airlines Center, they were exactly that for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago, which heading into the game was last in the NHL in penalty killing at 74.4 percent, killed off all six Dallas power plays. The Blackhawks also netted the eventual game-winner on their only power play of the night, a goal from right winger Patrick Kane 1:45 before the second intermission.
"Basically, it was one of those nights where you look at special teams was the differential and our penalty kill led the charge," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought overall, we played a real strong game discounting the penalties we took."
Stars coach Lindy Ruff agreed with Quenneville that special teams were indeed the determining factor in the win by the visitors.
"They took advantage of a big mistake," Ruff said. "I think we had a really big error on killing a penalty. We should have walked out of the second period probably at 2-2 maybe at the worst."
Dallas' power play finished 0-for-6, making the Stars 0-for-24 with a man advantage at home this season.
"Again, it had some real good opportunities but didn't convert," Ruff said. "That could have been a game changer when the game was right there."
Left winger Patrick Sharp had four assists, right winger Marian Hossa two goals and center Jonathan Toews a goal and an assist for Chicago in the win, which snapped Dallas' three-game winning streak. The Blackhawks also got a 31-save performance from goaltender Corey Crawford.
Sharp assisted on goals by Hossa in the first period, by Toews and Kane in the second period and a second from Hossa late in the third. Chicago also added a late short-handed empty netter from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson with 1:07 remaining.
"One of those nights where you try to make the right play and my linemates were putting the puck in the net," Sharp said.
The Stars got goals from centers Cody Eakin and Tyler Seguin in the loss.
Kane's goal, the eventual game-winner, came just before the second intermission. With Chicago 23 seconds into their first power play of the game, Kane finished with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen short side to make it 3-2 in a sequence featuring pinpoint passing from Sharp and center Andrew Shaw.
"It was frustrating with all of the penalties early," Hossa said. "We were patient and we capitalized on the power play. We knew it was going to come sooner than later."
Dallas took an early lead when Eakin knocked in a rebound with a backhand 6:10 into the game. Chicago put the Stars on the power play twice in the first five minutes but Dallas was unable to convert. Eakin's goal came two seconds after the Blackhawks' second penalty of the period, a tripping call on Hjalmarsson, expired.
The Stars also had a great chance to make it 2-0 at 14:02 when Crawford made a pad save on a well-struck one-timer by winger Ray Whitney.
However, the visitors pulled the game level 3:09 before the first intermission when Hossa scored his seventh on an easy tap-in at the far post. Toews spotted Hossa open near the far post and fed him after Sharp started the sequence by sending the puck around the boards and behind the Dallas goal.
The Stars regained the lead 6:54 into the middle period when Seguin beat Crawford top shelf from the edge of the right faceoff circle after a perfect pass from the Dallas captain, center Jamie Benn.
That lead didn't hold for long as Toews scored at 10:19 of the second on a shot that deflected in off the skate of Dallas left winger Erik Cole. And the Blackhawks then pulled ahead for the first time with 1:45 remaining before the second intermission when Kane beat Lehtonen for the eventual deciding tally.
Kane then had a great chance to make it a two-goal game 23 seconds before the second intermission but Lehtonen denied him on a breakaway.
Hossa's second came with 1:41 remaining when he beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot while on a breakaway.
Lehtonen made 26 saves in the loss for Dallas.
NOTES: C Michael Handzus and LW Jeremy Morin were the scratches for Chicago. ... Dallas scratches were D Kevin Connauton, who was sent to Texas of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment on Friday, LW Lane MacDermid and D Aaron Rome. ... Blackhawks D Sheldon Brookbank played right wing for a second straight game. Brookbank skated on Chicago's third line alongside LW Bryan Bickell and C Brandon Shaw. ... Dallas G Kari Lehtonen started his ninth consecutive game in net for the Stars. ... Saturday's game marked the first time since the 1997-98 season that Chicago and Dallas squared off as fellow members of the Central Division. Beginning with the 1998-99 season, the Stars played in the Pacific Division, where Dallas won five division titles. ...Texas Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland, an avid hockey fan, was one of the 17,167 in attendance.