Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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Blackhawks Stop Stars, Inch Closer To Playoffs

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[March 26, 2014]  CHICAGO  The defending Stanley Cup champions are on the verge of clinching their sixth consecutive appearance in the playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks did their part Tuesday, defeating the Dallas Stars 4-2 at the United Center.

Meanwhile, one of Chicago's biggest Western Conference rivals, the Phoenix Coyotes, stood in the Blackhawks' way of making a playoff berth official  one day after Chicago put tickets on sale for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Had Phoenix lost to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Chicago (42-16-15) would have been in and could have relaxed somewhat in its nine remaining regular-season games.

Instead, the Coyotes  fighting for their own playoff berth  defeated the Penguins 3-2 to remain in the eighth and final postseason position in the West.

Not only did Phoenix's win not sit well with the Blackhawks, but it affected Dallas' playoff hopes even more. With the loss, the Stars (34-27-11) fall three points behind Phoenix (35-26-12) for the final Western Conference playoff slot.


"The last 10 we have here aren't going to be easy," Dallas forward Jamie Benn said of the Stars' remaining regular-season games. "We're going to have to find a way to stick together and try to get as many points as we can."

Added Dallas coach Lindy Ruff, whose team is three points ahead of Vancouver (33-30-10), "We didn't have enough."

Chicago skated off the ice in much better position.

"It was a big win tonight," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who scored a goal. "(Dallas is) a hungry team, fighting for their playoff lives, and we knew that. We talked about that coming into tonight."

Chicago played significantly better than it did in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, a game in which the Blackhawks appeared disjointed throughout.

That wasn't the case Tuesday, though.

"I liked our game, thought we had a good start," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Scoring first again helps. I thought we did some good things throughout the game. All four lines were contributing, and I thought our special teams were good as well. Good win."

Quenneville wasn't joking the importance of the first goal. The Blackhawks are 33-1-7 when scoring first this season, 8-15-8 when their opponent scores first.

When left winger Brandon Bollig's empty-net goal with a minute to play was disallowed, veteran right winger Marian Hossa completed what Bollig started 33 seconds later, scoring his 26th goal of the regular season into the empty net with 34 seconds left to seal the win.


Bollig's apparent goal was waved off because officials ruled he deflected a shot with his stick above his shoulder. Video replays showed the referees were correct in their call.

While Hossa picked up the team seconds later, Bollig was still ticked about the call, getting into a late fight with Dallas left winger Antoine Roussel. Both players were sent to the penalty box for the final 22 seconds of the game.

Center Andrew Shaw put the Blackhawks on the scoreboard first with 18 seconds remaining in the first period. His 19th goal of the season came on the power play. Left winger Patrick Sharp took a slap shot from near the blue line. The puck bounced off Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and Shaw was there to backhand the rebound into the net.

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At 4:12 of the second period, right winger Kris Versteeg tipped a shot by Keith past Lehtonen for his 12th goal of the season, giving Chicago a 2-0 advantage. The goal originally was credited to Hossa but was changed after the second period ended.

Any hopes that the Blackhawks and goalie Corey Crawford had of a shutout were dashed at 10:56 of the middle period when center Ryan Garbutt drove through the crease and slipped a backhander past Crawford, closing Chicago's lead to 2-1. Garbutt registered his 13th goal of the season.

The Blackhawks quickly got their two-goal edge back at 14:15 when Keith's slap shot from just outside the left circle slid past Lehtonen, whose view was blocked by a number of players in front of the net. It was Keith's sixth goal of the season and third in the past five games. He added an assist, his team-leading 51st.

Dallas didn't give up in the third period. Garbutt scored his second goal of the night at 14:20, threatening to send the Blackhawks off on a three-game road trip on the wrong foot.

Crawford stopped 25 of Dallas' 27 shots to improve to 29-13-10. Lehtonen stopped 38 of Chicago's 42 shots, and his record fell to 27-18-10.

The Blackhawks won the season series with Dallas, four games to one.


Tuesday marked the Blackhawks debut of 19-year-old forward Teuvo Teravainen, who was called up from Jokerit in his native Finland. In 49 games with Jokerit, Teravainen had nine goals and 35 assists.

Teravainen played just over 11 minutes but did not record any stats.

NOTES: Out since March 18, Chicago D Michal Rozsival is reportedly progressing nicely from his lower-body injury, and he could be back with the team before the regular season ends. However, it is likely that Blackhawks G Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body/shoulder) will not be back for the remainder of the season or the playoffs. ... Chicago plays six of its nine remaining regular-season games on the road, starting a three-game trip Thursday at Boston against the Bruins. ... Dallas hosts the Nashville Predators on Friday before beginning a five-game road trip. ... F Dustin Jeffrey joined the Stars on Tuesday after being recalled from the AHL Texas Stars on Monday, the same day F Chris Mueller was sent back down. ... The attendance was 21,493.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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