Stars’ win in Chicago continues good road form

After seeing his Dallas Stars beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, at United Center on Tuesday night, Stars first-year head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t mince words, admitting that his team didn’t play their best against the reigning NHL Stanley Cup champions.

However, as is sometimes the case in today’s League, the will to win or a fortunate bounce here or there can be enough to win a game or two a team shouldn’t. And that’s exactly what the Stars did on Tuesday night, win a game they honestly had little business winning.

Sure, the Stars did jump out to a 3-0 lead and looked in control of the game, but that lead was far from safe and Dallas conceded three unanswered and it was 3-3 at the second intermission. However, Ruff and his group remained undeterred and when Antoine Roussel scored the game-winner three minutes into the final frame on a penalty shot, it was understandable that emotion won out and he stuck it to the crowd a bit after his goal.

Maybe the Stars felt like they owed the Hawks a little something, after Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss at American Airlines Center, a game where Dallas held their own with the denizens of the Windy City, but a contest where they could never deliver the knockout blow to the reigning league champs and in the end, the Blackhawks left town with two points in a game where the shootout went 11 rounds.

And heading out on the road might have been exactly what Dallas needed after a tough shootout loss on Sunday to the Edmonton Oilers, another contest where the Stars had ample opportunities to put the Oilers away but failed to do so, leaving the door ajar for a comeback and eventual shootout loss.

Dallas went 1-0-2 during that recently-concluded three-game homestand and took four of a possible six points, but for a team that has won eight of 10 on the road, there was some thought that getting away from Big D for at least two games wasn’t a bad thing.

No matter the circumstances, a win over the defending champs is always a confidence booster for a team like the Stars, a club that is just 31 games into its first season following an extensive offseason makeover and a team that remains a work in progress, is never a bad thing.

“We had some timely scoring tonight that got us the lead and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for fighting their way back,” Ruff said in his postgame remarks to the media. “But again, I thought heck of a penalty shot by Rousse. We hung in there and were able to get a couple of points out of it.”

Again, the Stars were carried by No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen who stopped 47 of the 50 shots he faced in Chicago. Lehtonen has been Dallas’ most valuable player throughout the season except for the time he missed with a lower-body injury and Tuesday was no different.

“For sure, he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does in Dallas,” Roussel said of Lehtonen’s latest stellar performance between the pipes. “Our fans know he’s the best but around the league, some don’t know him as we know him.”

The Stars also won without top goal scorer Tyler Seguin, who missed a second straight game with concussion-like symptoms sidelined. Seguin will join his teammates in Toronto and could return for Thursday’s game with the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, especially since No. 91 grew up in Brampton, a scant 33 miles from Toronto.

And for a team that according to their head coach looked tired on Tuesday, it appears a day off might be in the works before the Stars conclude their two-game trip at Toronto.

“You could tell collectively as a team this is probably the lowest energy level we’ve had and it wasn’t just one or two. It wasn’t like I was going to be able to kick start one or two guys. We haven’t taken a day off for almost nine days and I think that probably falls on my shoulders. These guys need a little bit of rest,” Ruff said.

And after beating Chicago in their own barn, the Stars have definitely earned a day off.