DALLAS -- Needing two points in a tight Western Conference playoff race, the Dallas Stars rolled out a gem of a performance Thursday night, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 at American Airlines Center.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and moved the Stars into sixth place in the Western Conference, one spot ahead of Chicago.
The Blackhawks came into the game on a 9-1-2 run and as the league’s top-scoring team, but the Stars gave them little in the way of scoring opportunities. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, one of the hottest scorers in the league lately, had no shots on goal. His linemate Patrick Kane had just one shot.
“Yeah, it was very good,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said of the team’s defensive play. “We were really pleased with the way everybody pitched in defensively. I thought you look at key elements in our game tonight where we need to have big performances from-our defense, our penalty killing and our goaltender, and we got all of those things.”
Kari Lehtonen, who has was making his 12th straight start and his 21st in the last 23 games, made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and his second in the last four games.
“Everybody was certainly ready,” Lehtonen said. “We had lost two in a row at home. We really wanted to win, play the right way, do the little things right and be responsible especially in our own end. I think that showed today.”
The Stars’ penalty kill came up big in the game, going 4-4 against one of the league’s top ranked power plays.
“Our penalty killing, I think that was probably the strongest penalty kill game we’ve had this year and it was a difference maker,” Crawford said.
And there was plenty of offense for the Stars, who got goals from five different players.
"We were good in the all the areas you have to be good in and that’s great when you get a result like that," Crawford said. "It can really springboard our play. If we continue to have really good defensive play, we have enough offense. So we’ve got good offensive tools here and they showed it tonight.”
The Stars broke the scoreless tie with some help from Lehtonen, who kicked out a rebound to Brad Richards, who then set up Steve Ott on a breakaway and Ott scored with 2:23 left in the first period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
The Stars scored two goals early in the second period to break the game open, both goals produced by the line of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn. Ribeiro set up Benn on a two-on-one to make it a 2-0 game and then Benn set up Morrow off the rush to make it 3-0. Jason Williams and Brandon Segal scored in the third.
“It’s big when you get depth scoring like that,” said Morrow. “We worked hard, turned pucks over, were good on transition, drove the net.”
The win was a solid bounce back effort for the Stars following Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to San Jose. And it was a much-needed win for a team that didn’t need a third straight loss.
“From here on out -- the next 11 games -- we could probably say that every time we win that it’s the biggest win,” said Stars center Brad Richards, who had two assists. “This was good for our locker room because it this is a little bit how it feels when you are in a series. You lose a couple heartbreakers and you are still right in it. You’ve got to get right back on the horse and win a big one.”
And the Stars were able to do that Thursday. The next big one is Saturday when Eastern Conference power Philadelphia comes to town.
"He got in the scrap and took a pretty good punch from the young left-hander for Chicago. Like my father always used to tell me, it’s not the guys that get black eyes that should be embarrassed, Marc, it’s the guys that never get them. He said that after I got punched out one night in junior hockey. He stuck with it tonight and scored a big goal. That would be one that my father would be proud of. I’m sure Brandon’s pretty happy. He’s a popular guy. The guys were all happy to see him come into the dressing room after he cleared waivers this morning and it’s nice to see him contribute. He stayed with it today, did a lot of good things in the game in the limited minutes that he got and that’s what we need. We need performances from everybody and if you play six or seven minutes, make sure they’re impactful and his were.”
Stars coach Marc Crawford on Brandon Segal, who scored a goal in his first game since being recalled from the Texas Stars of the AHL