As Theo Fleury skated from the penalty box to the dressing room at the end of the second period Sunday, many in the crowd of 13,454 at the United Center gave him a standing ovation.
The ovation was as much an indictment of Fleury's Blackhawks teammates as recognition of his effort in an ugly 5-0 loss to the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars.
NHL has to offer, they're going to need a much longer yardstick.
Fleury, held scoreless for the second straight game, tried to do his part. Upset over the way things developed and with the referees, Fleury tried to hit everything in sight.
"I wish there were some more people who would have shown some emotion like [Fleury] did," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said. "He probably had more hits than our whole team put together."
When Fleury didn't get a call late in the second period with the Hawks already down 2-0, he slammed his stick against the bench, breaking the stick in two and earning an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Dallas scored on the ensuing power play early in the third and had little trouble the rest of the way.
Marty Turco made 17 savesnone of which were too difficultto earn his fifth shutout of the season.
"I think their defense can just hang their underwear up tonight," Fleury said. "We didn't make them work very hard. We didn't play physical. It's disappointing."
Two of the Dallas goals were typical of the way the night went.
On one, after a faceoff in the Hawks' end, Manny Malholtra beat a Hawk to a loose puck that eventually went out to Darryl Sydor at the point. Malholtra then went to the front of the net and screened goaltender Jocelyn Thibault on Sydor's shot to open the scoring at 14 minutes 21 seconds of the first period.
Down 3-0 early in the third, again on a faceoff in the Hawks' end, former Hawk Aaron Downey first beat Nathan Dempsey to a loose puck, then walked to the front of the net as defenseman Lyle Odelein backed away to score his first goal of the season.
"It's hard to say," captain Alex Zhamnov said when asked to explain the lack of ... everything. "We should be better."
stars 5, hawks 0