It’s funny how a couple of wins can change things. After going 2-0-0 on their road trip, the Dallas Stars find themselves holding down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. They pushed themselves into that position with a brilliant third period effort Thursday night, scoring three goals to rally past the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1 at the United Center.
“It was two real big points,” said Stars forward Loui Eriksson. “We’ve got to keep building here.”
The Stars are now tied with Los Angeles and Calgary at 66 points but they own the first tiebreaker, which is regulation/overtime wins and that is what has them in eighth place.
The Stars got a big performance Thursday from goaltender Richard Bachman, who was making his first start in three weeks. He stopped 26 shots, including some huge ones in the second period when Chicago dominated play.
“It was nice to get back in there and see some action,” Bachman said. “I felt pretty calm there for a crazy environment. It was a great game and felt solid.”
The Stars trailed 1-0 going into the third period in Chicago, but dominated the third period. The Stars, who had just 10 shots entering the third period, outshot the Blackhawks 15-5 over the final 20 minutes and got goals from Steve Ott, Eriksson and Michael Ryder to secure the victory.
“Our leadership group took a stand between the second and third, and we got going,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.
Gulutzan juggled lines in the third period, putting Ott on a line with Ryan Garbutt and Adam Burish and that trio paid dividends. After the Blackhawks won a draw in their own zone, the Stars kept them pinned in and Ott deflected a Trevor Daley shot past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to tie the game with 10:35 left in regulation.
The Stars took the lead with 5:02 left when Mike Ribeiro put a shot on net from near the right point and Ryder tipped it into the net forward what would turn out to be the game-winner.
“We know that we didn’t have many shots generated going into the third. We were still in the game, we just had to make sure that we got more pucks to the net and stepped our game up,” said Ryder. “We knew we had to play a hard 20 and we did that. We threw pucks at the net and got some traffic.”
Just 1:14 after he scored to give the Stars the lead, Ryder put a shot on net from the right circle that hit traffic, went up in the air and Eriksson put it into the net.
The Blackhawks dominated the second period, outshooting the Stars 16-5 but getting only one puck past Bachman. After Michael Frolik came out from behind the goal line and tried to put a puck on net, Marian Hossa scored during the ensuing scramble.
Hossa came close to making a 2-0 score in the final seconds of the second period, but Bachman got a piece of his shot from the slot and the puck hit the outside of the post. Earlier in the period, Bachman made a diving save on Jimmy Hayes when the game was still scoreless.
The Stars return home Friday to take on the Minnesota Wild. The Stars will be looking for their first three-game winning streak since the middle of December, and possibly the beginning of that run that has been eluding them.
“We’re all looking for that run at this time of the year, but the reality is it is very tough,” said Gulutzan. “But picking up two points whenever you can get them, especially in a tough building like this, is good. Now we’ve got to win at home.”
*The Stars did not have a power play in a game for the second time this season. The Stars have had just two power plays over the last three games.
*Stars center Jamie Benn (leg) missed his fourth straight game. He is doubtful for Friday.
*Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. Toews was involved in a minor car accident Thursday, but was not injured.
*The Stars are now 6-4-2 in the first game of back-to-backs this season. They are 0-9-2 in second games.