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Lehtonen, Ritchie lead Stars to shutout of Coyotes

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves, and Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin each had a goal and an assist when the Dallas Stars defeated the Arizona Coyotes 6-0 at American Airlines Center on Wednesday.

Lehtonen's shutout was his third of the season and 30th of his career. Dallas (17-14-5) has won three in a row, seven of eight, and eight of 10.

"We are definitely playing better," Lehtonen said. "I don't know where the moment was when we found our way of playing. It has been easier for me there, no crazy stuff happening. It also helps that I have been able to make timely saves. It was a nice effort tonight."

Forward Brett Ritchie made his NHL debut and his second-period goal was the game-winner. Colton Sceviour, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Garbutt also scored for the Stars. Alex Goligoski had two assists.

Arizona (14-19-5) had won three straight.

"We've got to regroup," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We played a good road first period, didn't capitalize on any chances. But in the end, didn't compete hard enough in coverage and gave up too many chances. That's what happens on the road; a few bad bounces against you and don't compete hard enough, you end up losing."

Dallas scored twice in 1:03 in the second period and four times in the third.

"All around, probably it was our best game," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Special teams were good. We defended the way we needed to defend, really moved the puck well and skated well."

Dallas took the lead at 7:22 of the second when Travis Moen fed Ritchie from behind the Coyotes goal, passing as he was falling to the ice. He scored with a wrist shot from the slot that sailed over the right shoulder of Arizona goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

"I thought [Ritchie] played real well," Ruff said. "It's great to see him get on the board, get us that first one, his first one and the game-winning goal. He's a big body, he protected the puck well, and I liked how he played. For him to step in, make a difference and help us win the game, you couldn't write a better script for a first game. He did the right things and I'm happy for him."

Ritchie, the 44th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, was recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on Wednesday afternoon.

"There's a lot of things going through my head right now," he said. "I'm sure my phone is blowing up. I wish my parents would have been here, but they are in Montreal with my brother (Nick Ritchie) in the World Junior tournament. It's an exciting time for me and the family for sure, and I'm just happy to be here."

Ritchie had a chance at a second goal late in the second period but was denied on a breakaway by Dubnyk, who made a pad save with 5:09 remaining.

The Stars got their second goal when Sceviour beat Dubnyk to his short side with a wrist shot from the right circle at 8:25. Benn started the rush by gaining possession in the left circle inside the Dallas zone. After a quick rush up the left side, Benn fed Sceviour from the left circle, and Sceviour quickly beat Dubnyk top shelf for his third goal of the season.

Benn scored a power-play goal after a pass from near the red line deflected in off Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy 1:19 into the third. Dallas was on the power play after Arizona captain Shane Doan was called for tripping Goligoski 28 seconds into the period.

"Garbage," was how Benn characterized his goal. "It's nice to get those bounces."

Eakin's seventh goal of the season came at 6:20 of the third period when he sent a slap shot under Dubnyk's left shoulder from the right circle.

"It's a clear shot that I let go through me, and I've obviously not had those going in," Dubnyk said. "That's a goal I'd like to stop. But I'll just look at the plays and things I want to do better. It'll be an easy one to forget and move on. It happens sometimes, so just try to limit the amount of times it happens is all."

Hemsky scored from a similar spot with 6:27 remaining, beating Dubnyk high to his short side with a slap shot. Garbutt scored off the rush with 58 seconds remaining.

"We executed the way we needed to execute," Ruff said. "We didn't create those goals by cheating. We created them by playing really well and defending really well in our own end. We didn't give up odd-numbered rushes and didn't get players caught."

Dubnyk made 25 saves for Arizona.

"[We'll] find a way to win the next one," Doan said. "We talked about it, that's all our focus is. When you lose that one, you've got to find a way to win the next one."

On Dec. 4, Dallas was 9-12-5.

"We're just playing better hockey," Benn said. "We got contributions from every line out there. We're taking care of the puck better, our goalies are playing great right now, and we just want to keep rolling."

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