Blackhawks Snuff Out Stars 5-2; Further Cement Western Conference Lead
Five different Blackhawks players scored, including Andrew Shaw with the game-winner, in a 5-2 Chicago victory over the Dallas Stars Monday night.
The Blackhawks (33-5-4) win was their third over Dallas (21-18-3) this year, sweeping the season series. The win was also Chicago’s sixth straight and moved them 11 points ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Western Conference.
While Chicago was cementing its playoff position, Dallas was left wanting. The loss kept the Stars two points back of Detroit for the eighth playoff spot in the West, each team with just six games remaining. Columbus also sits two points ahead of Dallas, albeit with only five games left on their slate.
Chicago goaltender Ray Emery (16-1-0) only needed to make 16 saves in securing his sixteenth win of the season. The stellar team defensive play of the Blackhawks has been a large component of their success, both recently and all season long, as Chicago has managed to hold opposing teams to just 26 shots per game, a mark that is good for fourth best in the league.
That commitment to team defense, combined with timely goaltending from both Emery and third year starter Corey Crawford (17-4-4), has made the Blackhawks the near unbeatable juggernaut they seem to be on most nights. Oh, and averaging 3.17 goals per game doesn’t hurt either.
Stars forward Jamie Benn was the only source of offense for Dallas, scoring their only two goals to tie the game briefly at 2-2 early in the third. The goals were his ninth and tenth of the season.
Less than 90 seconds after Benn scored to knot the game at deuces, perennial American All-Star Patrick Kane carried the puck through the high slot and stickhandled around and through four Dallas pylons before dishing the puck to Shaw, who quickly rifled it past Stars goaltender Richard Bachman for a 3-2 lead that Chicago would not relinquish.
The dagger came just over four minutes later on a bullet of a slap shot off the stick of Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. “The Hammer” joined the rush late and was left all alone in the high slot to receive a pass from Chicago forward Marian Hossa. Hjalmarsson’s blast made it 4-2 Blackhawks and gave Hossa his second assist of the night.
Hossa collected his first assist of the game on the first goal of the game, the 21st tally of the season for Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Toews was camped out in the crease and tapped home a gorgeous slap pass from Hossa down low to open the scoring.
Chicago would make it 2-0 midway through the second on an absolute dandy by Swedish forward Viktor Stalberg. Michal Handzus feathered the puck to a streaking Stalberg in the neutral zone, who powered his way to the net and flipped the disc past Bachman for his ninth goal of the year.
With Bachman pulled for the extra attacker and the Stars scrambling, Hossa increased his goal total to 16 on the year by virtue of an empty netter that came with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game.
In addition to the loss, Dallas may be without breakout rookie forward Alex Chiasson moving forward. Chiasson left the game early in the second with an apparent shoulder injury after being hit behind the Chicago net by Hjalmarsson. The young rookie had recorded six goals in his first six games with the Stars.
Final Score: Blackhawks 5, Stars 2
Chicago Goals: Toews, Stalberg, Shaw, Hjalmarsson, Hossa
Dallas Goals: Benn (2)
3) Jamie Benn – DAL
2) Marian Hossa – CHI
1) Andrew Shaw – CHI
Winning Goalie: Ray Emery 2 GA / 0.889 S%
Losing Goalie: Richard Bachman 4 GA / 0.852 S%
Next Game: Friday, 4/19 vs Nashville Predators, United Center, Chicago, Illinois
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