Blackhawks 5, Stars 2

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 center 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
defenseman 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
defenseman Nicklas Grossman and to the net where he converted
Toews’ centering 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
center 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 minute and 4 seconds 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.