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Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars Shutout Chicago Blackhawks 4-0

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Oh, they were so sad, those little Hawks fans. And Tom Gaglardi has their money now, too.

FSSW

AND you get to open presents on Christmas morning this week???

The Dallas Stars completed a two-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night with yet another dominant third period on home ice, to the delight of most at the American Airlines Center. They now cruise into the Christmas break with 54 points and possession of the top spot in the National Hockey League points-wise.

What a gift this one was.

A win against the Chicago Blackhawks, those defending champs, with all of that bandwagoning red in the building. A win against the Central Division. A win on the second night of a back-to-back. A win over Chicago where Patrick Kane doesn't score. A win over an opponent where no one scores.

And it's a win where they didn't need to haul off an score four per night like they almost always do, because their defense and goaltending were sterling as the game hit the late stages- But they went ahead and poured gasoline on the fire anyway.

It's an embarrassment of riches that now sees their goal differential also sit atop the NHL at +36 through 35 games played. It puts them back 10 points in front of those Hawks and eight in front of the Blues, who won tonight.

The Blues, who come back-to-back over the weekend. But that's for another time.

It's all smiles now but the first period, as it is wont to be with this club at times, was not a good one. The Stars spent the majority chasing and took a couple of penalties to put the league's 4th best PP on the job. Chicago managed only three shots on net officially, but 19 shot attempts and the lion's share of the zone time.

Chicago would hit the gas even harder in the second, finally recording those shots they had been earning in the second but Antti Niemi sparkled and once again gave the Stars a chance to find their game a little bit. Eight minutes into the third period they started a furious string of shot attempts that would culminate in Jason Spezza finding the tiniest shortside hole in Crawford to score the eventual game-winner.

The team that played last night and got in at 3:00am then just sprinted right past the group that was waiting here all nestled snug in their beds, while dreams of tired Stars danced in their heads.

It was none other than Patrick Sharp that roofed an absolute beauty over Crawford shoulder far-side that rattled in off the post to give the Stars a 2-0 lead, and the former Blackhawk, so notably elated, found the warm embrace of none other than Johnny Oduya waiting for him in celebration.

One wonders if Chicago fans liked that. Or the Antti Niemi shutout?

Colton Sceviour would then cash in a couple of minutes later, tipping offensive threat Jordie Benn's point shot in for a 3-0 lead, and then Mattias Janmark and Jason Demers (assist for Oduya) combined to make the party complete.

Ten different Dallas Stars recorded points, and Sharp and Demers had two each. A balanced effort all round. The power play scored. The penalty kill saved the game in the early minutes. The goaltending was superb. The offense was dynamic. The defense let the Hawks have nothing in the way of a comeback bid in the third.

It's so satisfying I don't think I could eat another bite.

Merry Christmas, Stars fans. They gave Chicago ye old lump of coal.