Dallas Stars are giving Kari Lehtonen plenty of work in the early stages of the season. So far, he's been up to the task.
Lehtonen stopped 36 shots on Thursday night as the Stars edged St. Louis 3-2 for their fifth consecutive victory over the Blues.
"We can't ask for anything more than he's given us," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said of Lehtonen, who is 3-0-0 and has allowed just four goals on 117 shots so far this season. "He's won singlehandedly two games for us here for sure."
Loui Eriksson, Adam Burish and Brenden Morrow scored for Dallas, which took a 3-0 lead and held on for its third win in four games.
"Special teams was the difference. We got one shortie and one power play and that kind of helped us out and goaltending for sure," Gulutzan said.
Eriksson's shorthanded goal at 18:50 of the first period put the Stars ahead to stay. The All-Star forward beat goaltender Jaroslav Halak through the five-hole with a backhander for his second goal of the season. It came just 37 seconds after the Blues had gone on the power play for the first time in the game following a holding penalty on Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman.
"I've done that a couple of times and today it worked again," Eriksson said of his backhanded shot to beat Halak. "So it was nice to see it go."
Burish made it 2-0 at 7:06 of the second and Morrow gave the Stars what appeared to be a safe three-goal lead at 14:21 with a power-play deflection.
But the Blues cut it to 3-1 just 20 seconds after Morrow's goal when Matt D'Agostini knocked in a rebound for his first goal of the season. Lehtonen stopped two shots by D'Agostini but couldn't get the third one.
Chris Stewart made it a one-goal game at 3:58 of the third when he beat Lehtonen with a perfectly placed 55-foot slap shot that found the right side of the net through a screen.
The Blues outshot Dallas 13-6 in the third period and had two power plays after Stewart's goal -- including one when Eriksson was called for tripping with 1:04 left -- but were unable to capitalize.
St. Louis finished the evening 0-for-5 on the power play.
"It's going to continue to be a work in progress," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I thought it got better. Now we have to take that next step where the execution leads to a chance to be buried.
Another key number from this win was Dallas finishing the night with 20 blocked shots compared with eight by the Blues.
"If we're going to turn it over and play in our zone, we're going to have to block them," Gulutzan said. "So I think there's a lot of guilt on the part of our guys there blocking shots. The guys on the PK, once again you have to give them credit. They're blocking shots and that's what it takes to win."
The Stars improved to 3-0-0 at home this season and end a three-game homestand on Saturday night against Columbus. St. Louis continues its four-game road trip Saturday night in San Jose.
Even though his club currently sits at 3-1-0, Eriksson knows he and his teammates still have plenty of work to do.
"Yeah, I thought we played real well the first 30 minutes today. The other 30 minutes, we didn't play that well," he said. "We need to do a much better job as a group but it's still good to get the two points."