The day after the Blackhawks were mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs, they played Dallas, a team engaged in a fierce battle for the Pacific Division title.
When the teams took the ice in the United Center on Sunday, they played the way the standings suggested they would.
Ron Tugnutt, the backup to outstanding Stars goalie Marty Turco, made his seventh appearance of the season and shut out the Hawks 4-0.
"We knew it was a crucial game for us, and we played like it was," said Tugnutt, who has a 6-0 record and three shutouts to show for his Sunday games during the last two seasons.
Tugnutt's 26-save triumph in his first Sunday game this season hoisted the Stars to within three points of Pacific Division leader San Jose, the team they'll take on Tuesday night in Dallas.
"This was big for us," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "If we go into the San Jose game five points behind, our margin for error is very slim."
In the wake of Saturday's 3-0 loss in Detroit, Tippett made shooting the puck a priority for his team.
"Our goal was to get pucks going at the net, get traffic at the net and see if we could come up with some goals," he said. "Obviously, we got the results we were looking for."
It took the Stars only 94 seconds to get on the scoreboard. The puck came from off the boards to their leading scorer, Bill Guerin, and his shot from along the goal line went off rookie goalie Adam Munro's pads and into the net for his 31st goal.
Valeri Bure, the skillful right wing acquired from Florida last week, scored his 21st goal and the Stars' second on a rebound shot early in the second period. Third-period goals by Pierre Turgeon and Jeri Lehtinen padded the lead.
"The first and third goals were really soft goals," lamented Munro, who was coming off a brilliant performance for his first NHL victory Friday night in Washington. "I've got to stop those. You can't let a low-scoring team like that get easy goals."
Of the league's upper-echelon teams, the Stars have scored the fewest goals this season. But they boast the NHL's second-best defensive record, and Sunday they showed why.
"They kept it simple," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said. "Probably in that respect it was a very boring game to watch. But they played one heck of a road game. They protected the middle of the ice.
"There wasn't a lot of open ice, and there were no second chances. It was a difficult game to play in."
Sutter is a proponent of shooting the puck, and he used Dallas' tactics to make his point.
"It's interesting to see how they scored three of their four goals," he said. "They got them by just putting pucks on the net from anywhere and everywhere."
When asked about Munro's "soft goals," the Hawks' coach said, "You win together; you lose together. He was a big part of our winning the last one."
Apparently, the mathematical playoff implications of St. Louis' victory over Columbus on Saturday escaped the Hawks.
"I didn't know and I don't think any of the other guys knew," Mark Bell said.
What happened over the weekend merely made it official that summer vacation begins on the first Monday in April.
STARS 4, BLACKHAWKS 0
Let-it-fly tactic works for Stars
They put pucks on net, convert enough to breeze
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