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NHL Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars Smothered by Chicago Blackhawks’ Speed, Defense

Dallas Stars

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Playing in their fourth game in six nights, the Dallas Stars’ lack of energy led to a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night.

The Stars have struggled in back-to-back games this season, and the defending Stanley Cup champions used their speed and smothering defense to defeat the Stars in their last matchup of the regular season. Dallas was 1-2-1 in the season series and 3-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs heading into Tuesday night’s game.

The first period showed promise for the Stars early on as they came out with energy and determination as they attacked the Chicago net. Their energy dwindled as the period moved along, and the Blackhawks capitalized on a late power play to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Though the Stars played well and had several great chances in the first period, the Blackhawks ended up with double the shots, 16-8.

Things were not going Dallas’ way the whole night. Cody Eakin was victimized on a questionable goalie interference call late in the first period that led to Chicago’s first goal. Late in the game, with the Stars down by a goal, the Blackhawks received a favorable icing call though Tyler Seguin was first to reach the faceoff dots and red line. The call put the Stars back in their own zone with 44 seconds left, forcing Kari Lehtonen back in net. With 34 seconds left in regulation, a clearing attempt by Trevor Daley hit a station and bounced back to Marian Hossa, who sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.

Lehtonen kept the Stars in the game and was especially strong in the first period. He ended the night with 39 saves on 42 shots, including several second and third opportunities in tight with a crowd in front of the net. Andrew Shaw scored the first goal on a rebound with a backhand shot as he fell away from the net. The second goal was a deflection spawned by a turnover by Antoine Roussel at the Dallas blue line. Lehtonen was screened by several bodies on Chicago’s third goal, a blast from Duncan Keith near the blue line.

The Blackhawks’ relentless forecheck kept the Stars at bay and caused a lot of bad passes and turnovers in the Dallas zone. When the Stars did manage to generate an offensive push, the Blackhawks stepped up on the blue line and often did not allow the Stars to enter the zone with the puck. They followed that up with strong puck support in all zones. They kept the Stars to the outside most of the game and ended up with 10 blocked shots.

The Stars seemed to chase the Blackhawks the entire game. They were outshot 42-27. They were completely dominated on special teams and on the faceoff dots. The Stars failed to score on both of their power play opportunities, and they killed two of their penalties. Only one player for the Stars had a faceoff percentage above 45 percent, and that was Alex Chiasson, who only took two draws. On the other hand, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews won 23 of 28 faceoffs.

The silver lining for the Stars was that Seguin extended his point streak to 10 games with an assist, and Ryan Garbutt scored both goals in the loss. Garbutt was the best skater for the Stars. He was moved up and down the lineup and even saw time on the first line with Seguin and Jamie Benn. He was visibly the fastest and most energized skater for the Stars. In 15:45 of ice time, he registered two goals on six shots, two penalty minutes and two hits. The Stars showed their ability to fight back and rally against one of the best teams in the league, but they simply were outplayed.

The loss puts the Stars three points back of the Phoenix Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars have not done well this season in back-to-backs, but they will have to buck that trend if they have any hope of making the playoffs as they still have three more sets before the end of the season.

Mohammad Bakhach is a Dallas Stars writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter @hockeyarcher or add him to your network on Google