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Lehtonen leads Stars past Ducks in Game 3

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Dallas Stars fans have waited nearly six years to see Stanley Cup Playoff hockey return to American Airlines Center. On Monday night, a sellout crowd wasn't disappointed.

Kari Lehtonen made 37 saves and forwards Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin and Ryan Garbutt scored to lead the Stars to a 3-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series.

It was Lehtonen's first career playoff victory and shutout.

"At the age of 30, it was about time to get that first one," Lehtonen said. "It was nice to be able to be back there and help the team out. That's what I have to keep doing."

Anaheim now leads the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, TSN, CNBC, RDS2, PRIME, FS-SW).

"As much as it's hard to experience a loss in the playoffs, this team needed to experience a win," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "That group in there needed to experience what it’s like to win and winning in the playoffs is different than the regular season."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who has faced Lehtonen several times as an NHL coach, has seen this before from the Stars goaltender, so he wasn't surprised at his stellar performance.

"He played good," Boudreau said. "That's what Lehtonen does. I've coached against him for many years and have seen him play games like that and he can do it, but we've got to find ways to score. We had chances to score. We just didn't get it done."

Dallas, which hadn't hosted a playoff game since May 2008 when it lost in the Western Conference Finals in six games to the Detroit Red Wings, led 1-0 after one period and 2-0 after two.

Benn's goal came late in the first period when he tapped in a rebound 35 seconds before the first intermission.

Nichushkin then scored late in the second when he blasted a wrister through the five-hole of Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, who stopped 19 of 22 shots after winning the first two playoff starts of his career to help give Anaheim a 2-0 series lead.

"I think their goal at the end of the first period was a big goal for them because I thought we were really starting to take the play to them the last half of the first period, but [Andersen] was fine for me," Boudreau said. "He kept his calm."

Garbutt gave Dallas an insurance goal at 7:52 of the third when he scored his second of the playoffs off a rebound. Garbutt's initial effort and a rebound chance from Cody Eakin were turned away by Andersen, but Garbutt dashed in to poke in the carom and the Stars had a three-goal edge.

Anaheim was dealt a blow early in the second when veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas had to be helped off the ice with a fractured right leg 42 seconds into the period. Garbutt upended Robidas, his former Dallas teammate, in front of the Stars net.

Robidas was unable to put any weight on his right foot, leaving the Ducks with five healthy defensemen. Robidas was transported to a local hospital.

"It's a huge loss because he was playing great," Boudreau said of Robidas. "And of course, I think all the guys on the bench felt extremely bad for him. Here's your teammate who's just fought his way back from a broken leg. I don't know what the extent of the injury is. I know it doesn't look good and he's probably out for a long time. You have to feel for an athlete that worked so hard to get back and then that same thing happens to him."

Lehtonen was rock solid for the entire 60 minutes, making several big saves, including a diving stop on Anaheim center Saku Koivu early in the second period.

"Of course I feel better after this one," Lehtonen said. "But these games are so exciting. There's no time to think about what has happened in the past and things like that. I just have to keep going. Be patient and be alert. That's the kind of stuff I keep telling myself."

The Stars' penalty kill was especially effective, killing off all six Ducks opportunities. Dallas also held Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf to one shot.

Getzlaf, who found himself in the middle of a scrum with Antoine Roussel late in the second period, took exception to the level of physical play the Stars displayed in Game 3.

"Well, it's one of those things. You've got to stay as disciplined as you can, but you've got to protect yourself too. That's part of the game. Obviously, I never expected them to target my face that much, but that's the way it goes I guess," Getzlaf said.

However, Getzlaf did give Lehtonen a lot of credit for how well he performed to earn the shutout for Dallas. Anaheim outshot Dallas 37-22.

"A lot of the pucks that he saw tonight, he saw them all the way in and you're not going to beat a goalie like that. He's world-class," Getzlaf said.

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