Scott Darling was probably never so happy to be 6-foot-6.
The Blackhawks backup goaltender was already having a good game but that height, and his ability to get over quickly, kept Dallas Stars forward Patrick Eaves from scoring an overtime winner.
Not long after, Marian Hossa made Darling’s stretch worth the effort.
Darling stopped 32 of 35 shots and Hossa scored the winner with 28.7 seconds remaining in overtime as the Blackhawks beat the Stars 4-3 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks, who were down 2-0 nine minutes into the second period, won their sixth game in a row and seventh of their last eight.
The Blackhawks may be without forward Tyler Motte for a little bit, however. Motte suffered a lower-body injury in the second period. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will know more about Motte’s status in the next day or two.
“He might miss some games,” Quenneville said.
Jonathan Toews scored a goal and added two assists. Artem Anisimov scored what was the go-ahead goal at the time, extending his point streak to a career-best 11 consecutive games.
It was one more game where the start was sluggish but the finish was there. And Darling’s lunge helped the Blackhawks get there.
“It took every inch of me to get that one,” Darling said. “Whoever passed that, I think it was [Jamie] Benn, he had a good fake. I thought he was going to shoot it; he passed it across and I just tried to get something over there. Lucky it hit me.”
Maybe, but the Blackhawks goaltending has been strong throughout this season. And the team, slow starts be damned, just gets better as the games progress.
“We’re showing a lot of positives in all areas,” said Toews, who now has three goals in his last five games. “No one seems to be focused on the win streak we’re on right now. We’re just focused on every game and that’s a good thing we’ve got going.”
The win streak looked like it was ending on Sunday night, as the injury-decimated Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Tyler Seguin had a power-play goal and rookie Gemel Smith scored a short-handed goal, the first goal of his NHL career. Patrick Kane’s fifth of the season cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1 at the end of two.
Then the Blackhawks’ third-period return commenced. Toews tied the game 3:39 into the period and, just 56 seconds later, he fed Anisimov for his team-leading eighth goal of the season and a 3-2 edge. Smith’s second goal of the night, however, forced overtime.
A few minutes after Darling’s stop on Eaves, Hossa, with Anisimov screening Kari Lehtonen in front, scored the winner. It was a relief for Hossa, who had a turnover on the previous sequence that almost led to another Stars scoring opportunity.
“I had two or three giveaways,” Hossa said. “I was a little frustrated. Nice way to end it that way.”
The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win. On Saturday it was their penalty kill. That was a big part of it again on Sunday, thanks to the big stop by their big backup goaltender.
“When you kill a 4-on-3 it’s big. You don’t get too many opportunities to do it and guys did a good job of doing what they had to do,” Quenneville said. “We’ve had some big PKs over the last little while, particularly tonight in overtime. Timing was good.”