The Detroit Red Wings paid tribute to newly retired Tomas Holmstrom before the game, when he dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. The Red Wings didn't give the full house at Joe Louis Arena much else to celebrate at Tuesday's home opener.
Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the best net-front presences in NHL history, made his retirement official a few hours before the game. The Red Wings could have used him on the ice as they failed to build on Monday's 4-3 shootout win at the Columbus Blue Jackets, managing only a goal by rookie Damien Brunner with 3.4 seconds remaining.
"I thought mentally we weren't sharp," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It was one of those games that I would have liked to see us find a way to gut it out in the third period."
Both teams were playing for the third time in the first four days of the new season.
"You play three games in four nights with five days of training camp and it's a lot different than having five weeks of training camp and playing three in four nights," Babcock said. "I thought we looked like we were out of gas. The best guys we had were the ones who have been playing in the AHL. Aside from that, we really didn't have much zip in us.
"You start 1-2 and it's way different than starting 2-1."
The Stars showed fewer effects of the tight schedule, though they needed some heroics by Lehtonen down the stretch.
“I think you saw us defending a little faster and getting on guys in our D zone," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They are such a good team, so you have to defend fast. At the end of the day, I thought we created some good chances in the second, maybe took advantage of their back-to-back, but they got a push in them the last six minutes. They pushed real hard, but Kari was equal to the task. That summed up the game."
Ryder gave the Stars the lead when he beat Jimmy Howard 5:41 into the game for his first goal of the season. He picked up a pass from new linemate Cody Eakin, moved across the high slot and beat Howard with a wrist shot through a screen.
"Eaks plays hard and he was doing a good job," Ryder said of Eakin, an offseason acquisition from the Washington Capitals. "He gets in on the forecheck and creates those turnovers. He created some space for me and [Ray Whitney] tonight. He did well and I was impressed with the way he played. He did a lot of good things and he helped us out."
Howard's heroics kept the score at 1-0 through two periods, making 17 of his 30 saves as the Stars outshot Detroit 17-7 in the second. Howard made big saves on Loui Eriksson, Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Tom Wandell and Trevor Daley.
Ryder gave the Stars some insurance at 5:34 of the third period when he took Brenden Morrow's pass from the right half-wall and one-timed a 15-foot wrister from the slot that beat Howard cleanly.
"I knew it was going to take a couple of games to get into it, the timing and everything," Ryder said. "It's only one game, but I feel better as each game goes on. That's a good thing and I've got to make sure I keep doing what I did tonight and keep improving every game."
Lehtonen made the lead stand up with a handful of excellent saves in the final minutes, when the Red Wings generated most of their 20 shots in the third period. He robbed Henrik Zetterberg from the slot with about 8-1/2 minutes remaining, and denied Pavel Datsyuk from close in with 4:20 left after Datsyuk had slithered through the defense. He also stopped Zetterberg's stuff try off a scramble with 1:05 to play and made a diving stop on a wide-open wrister by the Red Wings' new captain.
Brunner's goal on the Red Wings' 40th and final shot of the night served only to spoil Lehtonen's shutout.
"It was a good win. It was fairly easy the first 50 minutes I would say, and then Detroit came harder," Lehtonen said. "It was nice to have that two-goal lead at that time. It made it more calm for the whole team. This place is not easy to come to and get wins. It was huge."
Howard was almost as good, but in the end, all he could do was tip his cap.
"He was excellent," Howard said of Lehtonen. "He was swallowing up everything."
The Red Wings' power play is showing the effects of the absence of Holmstrom and captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired during the summer. They went 0-for-4 with the extra man and have yet to score in 15 tries through three games.
"I thought the power play tonight was terrible," Babcock said. "We pass it around and pass it around and pass it around. If you don't shoot it and get it back and crash the net. When we had Nick and Homer, one got in front of the net and one shot the puck every time."
Material from team media was used in this report