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Blackhawks’ stars shine in victory over Stars

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane left celebrates his goal with defenseman Duncan Keith (2) during second period an NHL

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, left, celebrates his goal with defenseman Duncan Keith (2) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:56AM



DALLAS — The season began with the promise of Bryan Bickell scoring 30-plus goals on a top line as the muscle alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, while the superstar duo’s innate chemistry would lead them to even loftier heights.

When that didn’t work, coach Joel Quenneville reunited the top line of Brandon Saad, Toews and Marian Hossa, the trio that led the Blackhawks to the Presidents’ Trophy last season.

Well, the third line’s the charm. The new top unit of Patrick Sharp, Toews and Hossa has been almost unstoppable, and led the Hawks to a 5-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

The Hawks have scored 27 goals in the six games since that line was assembled, igniting an offense that had been sputtering early in the season.

And no, Quenneville’s not ­kicking himself for waiting until the 12th game to find the right formula. You never know just who’s going to click.

“I’m not complaining,” he said with a smile. “We try things. You probably said, ‘Why didn’t we try Bicks, Kaner and Jonny in the playoffs earlier?’ Over the course of the season, you’ll try things and some lines get hot and some lines jell a little bit later.”

Hossa had two goals, Sharp tied his career high with four assists, and Toews and Kane each had a goal and an assist as the Stars’ three-game winning streak came to an end. Since their first game as a unit — Oct. 28 at Minnesota — Toews has five goals and three assists, Sharp has three goals and seven assists, and Hossa has four goals and four assists.

“To see the scoring across our line — Hoss is getting a few, Sharpie’s getting a few here and there, even myself picking up a couple garbage goals here and there — always feels nice,” Toews said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. If we’re matched up against their team’s top line, we want to be competitive and create chances out of working hard and taking shots and recovering pucks down low. We’re just finding that consistency and we’re starting to build that chemistry as a line.”

Perhaps even more encouraging for the Hawks, they killed off all six of the Stars’ power plays, good enough to lift them out of dead last in the league on the penalty kill.

“It’s definitely getting better and better,” Hossa said. “We’re getting on the same page.”

The Hawks twice erased one-goal deficits — Hossa batting in a tremendous behind-the-net feed from Toews to offset Cody Eakin’s goal, and Toews scoring on the doorstep off a Kane pass to offset a Tyler Seguin goal. That tally briefly tied Toews with Kane for the team lead with nine goals, but just as he did Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets, Kane quickly took care of that by scoring himself — this one just 23 seconds into the Hawks’ lone power play of the game, late in the second period.

“Definitely not thinking about that,” Toews laughed about the team scoring lead. “It’s a good thing for our team if we can have guys getting on the board every single game that are playing on different lines.”

From there, Corey Crawford “stood on his head,” in Sharp’s words, to keep the Stars at bay in the third period, with some help from some tough shifts by the Hawks’ fourth line and their third defensive pairing (Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy). Crawford finished with 31 saves, preserving the lead long enough for Hossa to score on a breakaway, and for Niklas Hjalmarsson to seal it with a 190-foot empty-netter in the final two minutes.

It was another virtuoso performance from the Hawks’ top line. And even in the fickle world of hockey chemistry, the trio sees no reason why it can’t continue indefinitely.

“The three of us are kind of building off each other’s strengths,” Sharp said. “It seems we get better as we go along.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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