The Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets continue to head in opposite directions.
Dallas got 38 saves by Kari Lehtonen and held on to beat the winless Blue Jackets 3-2 at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night for their fourth consecutive victory.
Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist for Dallas, which won the opener of a four-game trip and completed a home-and-home sweep of the Jackets. Steve Ott and Michael Ryder also scored for the Stars, who've opened by winning five of their first six games.
The biggest reason for the fast start is Lehtonen, who improved to 5-0-0.
"I'm just trying to be patient," Lehtonen said of his early-season success. "I think that's the biggest thing. It went good, and you have to be happy about it. When things are going well, of course it feels fun, and it's nice to play. You don't want to say that it gets easier, but you get lucky sometimes when things are going well. You have to keep working and hoping that it stays the same way."
Lehtonen has faced 30 or more shots in four of his five wins. On Tuesday, he got the Stars a victory on a night in which they were outshot 40-18.
"He's making all the difference in the games right now," said defenseman Sheldon Souray, who added an assist on what proved to be the winning goal by Ryder. "We've done some good things and put some stretches in periods together, but we've had some where we've sat back and take a lot of shots. When we have, he's made the saves and been the difference for us."
Derick Brassard had a power-play goal and Kris Russell beat Lehtonen with less than three minutes to plat. Columbus nearly tied it in the final seconds, but a redirection by Vinny Prospal trickled slowly past the post with Lehtonen leaning the other way.
The Stars, supposedly in rebuilding mode, are off to a fast start behind the play of Lehtonen, who improved to 5-0-0. Meanwhile, the Jackets fell to 0-5-1, making them the only team in the Western Conference without a victory. They've won just once in regulation in their last 28 games, dating to last season.
"You can hang your head and feel sorry for yourself, but nobody else in the League is going to feel sorry for you so you better keep throwing that effort out there," coach Scott Arniel said. "You'd think with 40 shots you're going to get more than two. We've got to find a way to get more goals."
Columbus is without both of its big summertime additions. Center Jeff Carter is sidelined with a broken bone in his foot, and defenseman James Wisniewski has two games remaining in an eight-game suspension.
After a scoreless first period that saw the Jackets have a goal disallowed because Derek Dorsett was in the crease, Ott opened the scoring at 4:17 of the second period. The pesky center extended his points streak to five games by winning a faceoff in his own zone and racing down the ice to fire a shot from the right circle past the glove of Steve Mason.
Benn made it 2-0 at 1:31 with a great individual effort. Starting along the boards at the Columbus blue line, he chipped the puck away from Russell, then slid it around Rick Nash and defenseman Aaron Johnson before pulling the puck away from Mason's attempted poke check and whistling a shot into the net.
"I just tried to tip it in, and got kind of lucky there," Benn said. "The goalie poked, and I guess it was just luck."
The Jackets finally got on the board at 5:06 when Brassard fired home the rebound of a shot by Nash for his first point of the season.
But just 81 seconds later, Ryder redirected Souray's shot from the point behind Mason to make it 3-1. Russell scooped a loose puck off the boards, skated in and beat Lehtonen from the high slot at 17:05. But Lehtonen was flawless the rest of the way.
"I thought with them coming out with a lot of energy we were good for the first 30 minutes," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "The last eight minutes of that second period we turned the puck over three times and they got their flurry of chances from that. That's when Kari was the difference. We just need to do a better job at getting pucks deep, and protecting leads."
Material from team media was used in this report.