The Blackhawks and Stars began their 2011-12 seasons Friday in Dallas, and the Stars rode goaltender Kari Lehtonen to a 2-1 victory. Lehtonen came moments away from a shutout and finished the game with 37 saves.
Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski both scored a goal for the Stars, who finished last season ninth in the Western Conference, just two points back of the final playoff spot. The Stars had a chance to make the postseason with a win on the last day of the 2010-11 campaign, but a 5-3 loss to Minnesota on April 10 eliminated Dallas from postseason contention. That loss also allowed the Blackhawks to make the playoffs as the West's eighth seed.
Dallas lost a big piece from last year's club this summer when centerman Brad Richards, who led the Stars with 77 points in 2010-11, signed a lucrative nine-year deal with the New York Rangers.
After a scoreless first period that saw Crawford stop 13 shots and Lehtonen turn aside nine, the Stars made it a 1-0 game just 59 seconds into the second.
"We did a lot of good things tonight so we can keep our heads up," said Crawford. "We just have to get ready for tomorrow and hopefully get two points."
A bad clearing attempt saw Mike Ribeiro get the puck along the left boards. He spied Goligoski loose in the slot and passed it over for a one-timer that sailed past Crawford.
"I saw he had it and when he has it I always just try to get open," said Goligoski. "Their wings were cheating a little there and I was able to get into a good position."
Dallas played without forward Adam Burish (groin) and defensemen Nicklas Grossman (groin) and Adam Pardy (rib) last night. Burish could play tonight, but Grossman and Pardy are expected to miss this evening's tilt.
Blackhawks centerman Dave Bolland missed Friday's test with an upper body injury, but he could skate in tonight's game.
The Stars have won four straight and six of their last nine meetings with Chicago, but the Blackhawks have taken four of six in the Windy City.