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Stars Win See-Saw Affair Over Hawks, 5-4

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OK, Stars fans. Raise your hand if after 20 minutes, you thought tonight was going to be a repeat of any one of the four meetings against the Blackhawks last season.

C'mon, admit it. Because as a devout follower of both teams, I thought the same thing.

The shots were 21-8 in favor of the Hawks and they had already struck for three goals. Problem for them was, however, that Cristobal Huet looked fairly average in the first to keep Dallas within shouting distance at 3-2 entering the second frame.

And the first 92 seconds of the second showed just how much of a momentum killer goaltending can be when it's subpar. First Huet gave up a Charmin soft goal to Loui Eriksson just 57 seconds in to erase a 3-2 lead for the Blackhawks. 35 seconds later, Huet was victimized by a goal that caromed off Steve Ott and Troy Brouwer and somehow went into the net. And again, I was left wondering just what the hell Huet was doing on that goal.

After 20 minutes of dominating the Stars and pretty much getting either a prime scoring chance or a power play opportunity whenever they wanted to with their team speed, the Hawks suddenly found themselves down a goal by virtue of a bugaboo that plagued them last year and in the only other meeting between these two teams back on October 17th in Chicago.

That's right, goaltending. And that's after I heaped a little praise on the Frenchman in the game preview today.

Won't happen, again. Or maybe it will, depending on whether the Stars need a win that next two times these teams meet.

Anyway, if you've watched hockey long enough, you know there's nothing that can change a game quicker than ridiculously soft goaltending. In the first 20 minutes, the Hawks were flying. After Huet was pulled and Niemi was put in, they were a different team.

They were no longer aggressive as they skated into the zone. Instead, they were tentative, their passes didn't look as crisp, and it gave the Stars new life.

And not even a Patrick Kane goal in the dying seconds of the middle frame would deter them on this night. Start the third period, get a power play chance, and Steve Ott takes full advantage when it turns Brent Sopel into a pylon en route to a nice mini-breakaway goal on Annti Niemi to give the Stars a 5-4 lead.

And those defensive breakdowns that led to the four Chicago goals through two periods? Those holes were mostly clogged up in the third, save for a Jonathan Towes backhander past a sprawled Marty Turco that banked off the post and into Marty's glove. All resulting in a 5-4 win that the Stars, I'm sure, are quite happy to take all things considered.

There were a few milestones of note in tonight's game. For one, Mike Modano played in his 1,600th career game tonight while Stephane Robidas played in his 600th, including the 200th game in which he's worn a full cage.

Or maybe it just seems that way.

Anyway, nice win in a seesaw game by the Stars in a seesaw season.

Game highlights after the jump: