The Dallas Stars have had a good run of late, winning three games in a row along with getting points out of their last four-consecutive games. That streak ended tonight as the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks came to Dallas and handed the Stars a 5-2 regulation loss.
The Stars did themselves no favors with their special teams play and was a key factor in tonight’s loss. They squandered five-consecutive power plays and failed to take a stranglehold on the game with any special team opportunity, along with blowing defensive coverage on each Chicago goal.
With Dallas holding a one goal lead as the first period was winding down, Marcus Kruger put the Stars on the power play for the third time in the period. Dallas generated three shots on goal, but failed to capitalize. Less than two minutes after the penalty expired, Marion Hossa was left alone in front of the Dallas net and scored to tie the game on a cross crease pass from Jonathan Toews.
The Stars would take the lead again in the second period on a goal from Tyler Seguin and less than a minute after the goal, Patrick Kane took a delay of game penalty, giving Dallas another chance to extend the lead. The Stars would manage only one shot on goal on the ensuing power play and less than one minute after the power play expired, Toews would tie the game yet again after left unchecked two feet in front of Kari Lehtonen.
About two minutes after the Toews goal, Brandon Pirri would take a hooking minor and give the Stars a chance to regain the lead. Again, the Stars would only muster two shots on goal on the power play, and failed to take advantage of the opportunity. About three minutes later, Trevor Daley took a holding penalty, giving Chicago their first power play opportunity of the game. 23 seconds later, Kane would beat Lehtonen on a one timer to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead going into the third period. The Stars got beat on the rush when two forecheckers were caught leaving Kane wide open near the bottom of the faceoff circle to the left of Lehtonen.
Lehtonen would make several more saves on point-blank shots from wide open Chicago players keeping the Stars in the game, including a Kane breakaway near the end of the second period and multiple open looks from the Blackhawks in the third from one timers along with shots from on the top of the crease. Unfortunately for Dallas fans, Hossa would get behind the defense for a breakaway with just over two minutes to play and put Chicago up two goals. Less than 30 seconds later, Kruger would take a high sticking penalty, giving the Stars a chance to tie the game on the power play. The Stars managed one shot attempt, which got blocked before Niklas Hjalmarsson would score on an empty net to salt the game away.
If the Stars want to continue their recent success, the special teams and defensive coverage must be better. The upper echelon teams in the NHL make teams pay on their miscues, and Chicago reminded Dallas of that fact tonight. The Stars are still a young team, and in a measuring stick type game against the Stanley Cup champions, a lack of special teams success and a few defensive miscues are enough to cost the game.
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