The Chicago Blackhawks were happy to be home after their lengthy road trip. But facing the Stars for the second time in a week, they wanted to make sure they didn’t have a letdown.
Well, they did in the first period. And their comeback effort wasn’t enough to get completely past the first-period struggles.
Patrick Sharp recorded a power-play goal as part of a Blackhawks three-goal second period, but Antoine Roussel’s penalty shot was the game-winner in Dallas’ 4-3 victory at the United Center on Tuesday night. The loss snapped the Blackhawks’ six-game winning streak, all of which came on their road trip.
Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya also scored for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith had an assist and now has eight consecutive games with at least one helper. Patrick Kane recorded two assists, and Sharp’s goal was his 200th in a Blackhawks uniform.
Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals, but he was stellar in stopping 47 of 50 shots. It was the second time this season the Blackhawks tallied at least 50 shots on goal; the other time was against Phoenix on Nov. 14, when they fired 52 en route to a 5-4 shootout victory.
“We know Lehtonen is a world-class goalie, probably one of the more underrated players. But spotting them a 3-0 lead didn’t help,” Sharp said. “We simplified our game in the second, got bodies and pucks to the net.”
Overall, it wasn’t the letdown game the Blackhawks were wary they’d get after that lengthy road trip. But the first 20 minutes certainly weren’t their best, and the Stars took advantage of every opportunity. Coach Joel Quennville was fine with the Blackhawks’ second period. Their first, he could’ve done without.
“We were very generous on the first three goals against us,” he said. “It was one of those starts where, mentally, we were not sharp on the plays on the goals against. We worked ourselves back with a heck of a second period and had a decent third. Great opportunities, but we miss that 5-on-3. That could’ve been it there.”
“(Lehtonen) was pretty good for them. We know he’s a good goalie and he usually plays good for them, but I don’t think we were as sharp as we could be,” he said. “We did a good job coming back, being down 3-0. But you can’t expect to win every game when you dig yourself a hole like that, and they were able to get ahead again.”
The 5-on-3 came a little more than two minutes after Roussel’s go-ahead penalty shot, the first Corey Crawford has allowed in his career. The Blackhawks were on it for 74 seconds but couldn’t score on it. They got just one shot during that 5-on-3.
“We came back. We thought we carried the play most of the game, (shot) over 50 shots. Kari really stood on his head and kept them in,” Kris Versteeg said. “We played well. When you get behind the 8-ball it’s hard to come back, but we did. We didn’t get the full comeback this time, but obviously we should be happy with how we played, especially in the second and third.”
The comeback seemed unlikely early in the second. The Stars were doing a lot with a little, and taking advantage of Blackhawks miscues. Valeri Nichushkin put the Stars up 1-0 on a bad Blackhawks line change. Alex Chiasson had the deft power-play redirect in front on Alex Goligoski’s shot with 1:10 remaining in the first for a 2-0 lead. Erik Cole made it 3-0 early in the third.
Then things turned near the game’s midway point, beginning with Sharp’s goal, which came with Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews parked in front of Lehtonen. Leddy, who was benched for several minutes in the second period, came back to score his third goal of the season to cut Dallas’ lead to 3-2.
“He played well great rushes in the third, even in the second where he was a threat,” Quenneville said of Leddy’s response after the benching. “He did well.”
Oduya’s goal hit a Stars stick en route to being his third of the season, tying the game at 3-3 just 65 seconds after Leddy’s goal. But Roussel had the final say with that penalty shot.
The Blackhawks were concerned about a potential letdown. They had the right pace, push and traffic through the second and part of the third. But that letdown might have hit them some in the first.
“When you play them, it’s hard work and simplicity,” Quenneville said of the Stars. “They cashed in on their chances tonight. We weren’t anywhere near their rate of cashing in.”