They were found wanting. They were run out of their own barn before the first twenty minutes were up.
Dallas' progress since the slump in January was unclear heading in to this one. They had won four of five, but they were each struggles against the weaker sisters in the West in Colorado, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. None of them convincing. All of them one goal games, plus the empty netter against the Jets.
The big rise in level of competition and the result tonight seemed to have cleared any confusion, however, as the Stars trailed 3-1 after one and 5-1 after two and never really looked like they belonged in the substantive part of the action before the score got away from them.
Jamie Benn missed the net by a wide margin to begin the game and the resultant errant puck forced John Klingberg to take a penalty barely a half minute into the game. Poor coverage seconds into the ensuing power play allowed Brent Seabrook the space he needed to beat Antti Niemi one-on-one and the Hawks never really looked back.
Dallas would surrender a four-on-four goal Van Riemsdyk late in the period and then a short handed goal to Marian Hossa with less than a minute to play in the frame- That's a power play goal, a four-on-four goal, and a shorty. In 20 minutes.
It was a showcase of the superior firepower and execution of the Blackhawks in front of a sellout crowd of what appeared on television to certainly be mostly red.
The Stars would race past Chicago in the shots on goal category and take a big lead in shots attempted, but the quality backing those numbers was not there. Dallas repeatedly had to bring a fourth man in to the zone to establish any kind of offensive threat with Jason Spezza this evening, leaving them open to danger the other way and a bullish Chicago transition game in the neutral zone.
The growing lead would only compound the issues with the Stars taking risks, again on the power play, and again watching Chicago out-execute them- This time on another shorthanded goal by Anisimov late in the second. It's the second time in their last three home games they've seen the opposition score shorthanded multiple times. The seventh short by an opponent at the AAC this year.
Patrick Kane rounded things out with his 32nd of the season to ensure the third period would be a largely red-only affair in the stands- A third period that was perfunctory in nature, satisfying the rules and little else.
Kari Lehtonen finished what Antti Niemi started ,in every sense of the phrase, but the shortcomings were not theirs. It's a collective failure of execution tonight. The power play has been a problem for a couple of months and the short handed goals make it that much worse to go with an 0-for-6 mark tonight. The four-on-four was not good. The penalty kill allowed a goal 34 seconds in to the game.
The loss of Spezza was evident in the faceoff circle. On the power play. On the balance of their attack, which was lacking when 14 and 91 were not on the ice.
It's the ninth loss on a Saturday night this year. It's the 6th loss in their last seven Saturday contests. They play on each of the remaining Saturdays this month, and those are supposed to be their respites, with the lion's share of the remainder of the action coming on the road.
That road, by the way, that takes them next to Minnesota where they'v struggled, then to Chicago to face conditions similar to this evening's. Then on a back-to-back the week after that to Nashville and St. Louis. A brutal, brutal schedule following this.
And oh-by-the-way, sandwiched in between there the league leading Washington Capitals will waltz in here and try to do the same next Saturday night at the AAC.
And any chance to stop thinking about this game would be pretty welcome.