DALLAS — Sluggish starts have been a recent problem for the Chicago Blackhawks, and coach Joel Quenneville wanted it fixed as soon as possible.
Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp obliged, scoring in the game’s first two minutes, and Corey Crawford made 21 saves as the surging Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Friday night.
Bolland’s 18th goal of the season came 10 seconds in, and Sharp made it 2-0 at 1:42 with his 27th.
“We’ve had poor starts the last three or four games,” Quenneville said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about and it was nice to see the results.”
Sharp and Marian Hossa added goals in the opening two minutes of the third period to put the game out of reach for Chicago, 6-1-1 in its last eight games.
Jamie Benn ended Crawford’s bid for his sixth career shutout with 5:50 remaining for his 22nd goal of the season.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 shots for the Stars before a crowd of 19,099, the largest since the team moved to Dallas in 1993. The count was swelled by about 600 standing-room tickets and a loud contingent of Blackhawks fans.
Dallas has dropped two straight following six consecutive wins. The Stars had an 11-game points streak (10-0-1) end with Wednesday night’s 5-2 defeat in Winnipeg. They opened a four-game homestand that will go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.
The Stars were better in the second period, but couldn’t get the puck past Crawford. Two more quick-strike goals by Sharp and Hossa early in the third made a Dallas comeback unlikely.
“We just had another bad start in the third period that crushed us,” Benn said.
Pacific Division-leading Dallas remained stuck on 83 points, two ahead of second-place Phoenix, while Chicago improved to 86 points.
If the season ended Friday, the third-seeded Stars would meet sixth-seeded Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, but the Blackhawks were unwilling to look too far ahead.
“Anytime you play a team with a potential playoff matchup, you want to make sure you give your best effort,” Sharp said. “But that’s so far down the line. We just want to get as many points as we can to secure a playoff spot and then worry about who we’re playing.”
Crawford was making his first start since Feb. 29, when he was pulled after giving up three goals in 10 shots against Toronto. Ray Emery had been the starter for six games, but has been slowed by a recent illness, forcing the Blackhawks to recall rookie Carter Hutton from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL to back up Crawford.
Crawford came in for Emery in Tuesday night’s 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis after Emery gave up three goals. Crawford stopped all 18 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, then denied three Blues shooters in the tiebreaker.
Lehtonen had been 8-0-1 with a 1.29 goals-against average and three shutouts in his previous nine starts, but he had a rough first two minutes, yielding goals on the first two shots he faced.
Bolland won the opening faceoff, took a pass from linemate Andrew Shaw, and lifted a shot from the high slot that beat Lehtonen to the stick side for his 18th of the season.
Bolland’s goal hadn’t even been officially announced when Sharp gave his team a 2-0 pad on a wrister from the left circle.
“We were peppering (Lehtonen), getting bodies in front (of the net),” Bolland said. “You see goalies get rattled when that happens.”
Chicago dominated the first period with a 12-5 edge in shots, taking the crowd out of the game.
“That was a huge start against a team that plays good defensively,” Crawford said. “Everyone was dialed in. The last couple games, we’ve been getting down early. It was a solid win. We can feed off that.”
Bolland’s goal was the fastest by an opponent in Stars franchise history, topping Rick Martin’s tally for the Buffalo Sabres 11 seconds into a game against the Minnesota North Stars on Oct. 14, 1979.
The fastest goal in Blackhawks history was registered by Brent Sutter 8 seconds into a game against Vancouver on Feb. 5, 1995.
Hossa netted his 28th of the season 33 seconds into the final period on a shot that deflected off the stick of Dallas defenceman Adam Pardy and past Lehtonen. Sharp notched his second of the night at 1:45 of the third.
“It was like the start to the game,” Quenneville said. “Bing-bing and all of a sudden you have a nice cushion.”
Notes: Chicago C Patrick Kane was hit in the face with a shot by Dallas’ Stephane Robidas midway through the second period. Kane was down on the ice for a few minutes, but skated to the bench and remained in the game. … The teams closed out their season series, splitting the four games. … C Jonathan Toews (concussion), D Steve Montador (concussion), LW Daniel Carcillo (leg) and D Sami Lepisto (leg) were out for Chicago. … D Niklas Hjalmarsson had been questionable (upper body) but was in the lineup for the Blackhawks. … D Sheldon Souray (lower body) and forward Radek Dvorak (ankle) missed the game for the Stars. … The Stars warmed up in green jerseys in honour of St. Patrick’s Day, then switched to their regular home black tops for the game.