DALLAS – The Chicago Blackhawks are peaking as the playoffs approach.
Marian Hossa scored 36 seconds after the opening faceoff, Colin Fraser had the first of his two goals in the final minute of the first period, and the Chicago Blackhawks stretched their winning streak to four games with a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
Patrick Kane scored his 30th goal for the Central Division champs, who matched a club record with 107 points and have three games left to pass San Jose for top playoff seed in the West.
“Our objective is to finish first,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
“We want to be playing our best game heading into the playoffs,” said Fraser, the fourth-line centre who helped his cause to earn a spot on the playoff roster. “Everyone wants to contribute. I’m just going to play as well as I can down the stretch and hopefully that will be good enough to get in.”
Chicago’s Antti Niemi made 26 saves in his sixth straight start, and Jonathan Toews contributed a short-handed goal for the Blackhawks.
“You want to get on a roll this time of year,” Blackhawks defenceman Ben Eager said. “Everyone’s playing together and we’re a handful for other teams. We want to keep rolling right into the playoffs.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville hasn’t officially named Niemi as his playoff starter over Cristobal Huet, but that seems to be the direction in which Quenneville is leaning based on recent starts.
Steve Ott connected on the power play to reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career, and James Neal scored his 27th goal of the season for Dallas.
Rookie Matt Climie stopped 33 shots for the Stars, who have been eliminated from playoff contention and have two games left.
“We looked like a team that had been eliminated from the playoffs,” Dallas coach Marc Crawford said.
Climie drew a difficult assignment against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
“They have a number of good forwards who can shoot the puck, so I knew it was going to be a challenge coming in,” Climie said. “I was prepared for that, and maybe I gave them a little too much respect. At the same time, I’ve got to hold my own and give the team a chance to win.”
Dallas will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, something that hasn’t occurred since 1987 and 1988 when the franchise was in Minnesota.
Hossa gave Chicago early momentum when he skated around Dallas defenceman Nicklas Grossman and to the net where he converted Toews’ centring pass for his 24th goal of the season.
Fraser’s deflection at 19:28 of the opening period pushed Chicago’s lead to 2-0.
The Blackhawks dominated the first period with a 15-5 edge in shots.
“It wasn’t the greatest effort to start the game,” said Stars centre Brad Richards, who assisted on Neal’s goal for his 91st point, tying a career high. “They out-battled us and out-competed us in the first.”
Toews capitalized on a 2-on-1 rush during a penalty kill for his 24th goal of the season at 5:58 of the second period to give Chicago a three-goal pad.
Ott struck on the power play 1:04 later to pull Dallas within 3-1.
Fraser scored his second of the night and fourth of the season at 2:27 of the third period, and Kane made it 5-1 with his 30th of the season at 9:53 of the third.
Neal’s goal at 12:45 of the third narrowed the deficit to 5-2.
Notes: The teams split the four-game season series. … Dallas has gone 7-10-2 since the Olympic break to fall out of the playoff race. … Former U.S. goaltender Jim Craig performed the ceremonial puck-drop before the game. … Dallas LW and captain Brenden Morrow was scratched due to a bruised foot sustained in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss at St. Louis. … Climie made his fourth career NHL appearance in what will be his only start this season. Coach Marc Crawford will use Marty Turco and Kari Lehtonen in the final two games. … Brad Richards assisted on Neal’s goal for his 91st point, tying a career high.