DALLAS — Jamie Benn wound up for a fist-pump but ended up with a forearm shiver, shoving an in-the-way Nick Schmaltz so he could celebrate his goal late in the first period Thursday night. Schmaltz was muscled aside harmlessly with hardly any push-back whatsoever — a fairly fitting metaphor for a 4-0 Stars victory that snapped the Blackhawks’ five-game winning streak in emphatic fashion.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock joined Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville as the only members of the 800-win club, and Dallas looked every bit the Hitchcock team in this one, outmuscling the Hawks at one end and choking out their offense at the other.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” Jonathan Toews said. “Our effort was unlike the efforts we’ve seen in the last five or six games. Those loose pucks, we have to get our bodies in there first and win those stick battles and come up with pucks, give each other the right support. Otherwise, you end up chasing the majority of the night, the way we did tonight.”
Despite the lopsided score, the Hawks were competitive, if not entirely competent. They hit four posts — Alex DeBrincat early in the first, Patrick Kane on a juicy rebound, Brent Seabrook on a big blast and Schmaltz on a turnaround rebound attempt — while the Stars cashed in on just about every good chance they had, scoring four goals on their first 13 shots.
Had one of those early shots gone in rather than out, maybe the complexion of the game changes. But once Benn slammed home a beautiful pass by Remi Elie for a bang-bang play three seconds after Tommy Wingels’ penalty expired, the Hawks seemed oddly deflated.
“They scored, and we stopped playing at that pace that we had to play at,” Quenneville said. “Whether it was physically or winning all the board battles or pucks going through us, we didn’t have any zone time with [scoring] threats.”
Antoine Roussel gave the Stars a 2-0 lead 67 seconds into the second period with a downward deflection of a rising Dan Hamhuis shot. And four minutes after that, Tyler Seguin scored a power-play goal, sweeping in a rebound.
While the Stars celebrated and the fans chanted and nine other guys slowly meandered toward center ice for the ensuing puck drop, Seabrook took a detour back toward his own goal and gave Corey Crawford a friendly stick-tap on the pads. Crawford suffered his first regulation loss since Nov. 12, a 9-0-2 stretch.
The rout was on when Seguin made it 4-0 at 16:14 of the second, shoving aside Seabrook in the crease and stuffing in a rebound. The three-goal second period, in which the Hawks looked alternately overmatched or disinterested, was a reversion to form after consecutive solid second periods against Winnipeg and Minnesota.
Despite having three days of rest, the Hawks quickly looked gassed.
“We were a step slow all over the ice,” Brandon Saad said. “You could say they played well, but I think a lot has to do with our preparation. We didn’t seem ready to play tonight, and it showed.”
It was the Hawks’ third loss to the Stars in 22 days, though the first two came in overtime and a shootout. Those divisional defeats can come back to haunt them when it comes time to seed — or make — the playoffs.
“That’s something that’s talked about,” Saad said. “These divisional games are huge. The other two were closer — it’s tough to lose in overtime and a shootout. But tonight, we just got embarrassed.”
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