DALLAS – Antti Raanta wasn’t facing a ton of shots early. That was the tough part. Watching the Chicago Blackhawks spring to a big lead? That wasn’t so bad.
Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad each scored twice, and Raanta picked up another victory as the Blackhawks rolled the Dallas Stars 6-2 at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks collected their second consecutive victory and got great performances throughout the lineup.
Michael Kostka had a goal and an assist in his return to the Blackhawks’ lineup. The defenseman was injured in late October and was back after a conditioning assignment in Rockford. Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists to run his current point streak to six games. Duncan Keith and Breant Seabrook each had two assists. Jonathan Toews had an assist, the 400th point of his career.
Antoine Roussel scored both of the Stars’ goals.
Raanta eventually faced 29 shots, stopping 27 of them. And the Blackhawks jumping to an early lead made him feel at ease.
“If they want to score, that’s fine for me. I’ll just keep doing my job,” Raanta said. “It’s pretty nice to be a goalie on this team.”
Raanta is the goalie on this team for the moment, with Corey Crawford out three weeks with a groin injury. General manager Stan Bowman said earlier tonight that, “we need to give (Raanta and Kent Simpson) a little bit of a chance.” Tuesday was an excellent start.
[WATCH: All-around effort for the Blackhawks]
And as far as the Blackhawks in every other respect on Tuesday, they’re just fine. They scored another power-play goal, nullified all five of the Stars’ advantages and unleashed enough offense to chase Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and make the third period an afterthought.
“Great start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We did a lot of good things: Pucks, bodies, quickness, transition and finish. We had across-the board contributions. Good night.”
Kostka got it started just 2:03 into the first period. His goal snuck past Lehtonen, but it took a video review to make sure of it. Kostka said he felt great in his return.
“It’s always good to get right back into the action after time off there,” he said. “It’s also good to get to Rockford and get a few games in, get my timing back so I could make the transition easier.”
After that, the Blackhawks were off and running. Kane scored on a breakaway for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Saad added his first of the night and Sharp scored twice, once on the power play and later on a breakaway, in the second period. His first goal chased Lehtonen, who allowed four goals on 19 shots. Backup Dan Ellis was greeted by Sharp’s breakaway about 2 ½ minutes after he entered the game.
Raanta was busier at the end, seeing 15 shots in the third period and stopping 14 of them.
“I got some good saves in the third,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good all day long. I wasn’t thinking about the game too much. I was talking with (goaltending coach) Steve Weeks, and he thinks it was the best 60 minutes in here now. It’ll be good to continue with that.”
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks will take their offensive outburst on any night. As for Raanta, they know he’ll do his part.
“It’s not something we’re thinking about with Antti in there. We’re just playing hockey,” Sharp said. “He’s going to make the saves when we need him to, and he’s been great. It’s nice to score some goals for him but we’re just playing hockey.”
The Blackhawks played 60 minutes worth of hockey on Tuesday night. They’re playing a lot of hockey right now. But their last two games they’ve looked more like themselves.
“It’s good when you start like that. You can build off it,” Quenneville said. “We had a good second period as well. It was a real nice win. We’re busy in this stretch, so it’s nice to see us play well on the road.”