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Lehtonen saves Stars from goalie question

Makes 31 saves in series-tying Game 4 win against Blues

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- It had been three games since the Dallas Stars had a goaltender make it through an entire game, back to Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues. In that game, Kari Lehtonen did all that the Stars required of him, allowing one goal on 32 shots.

The next two games? Those did not go quite as well.

Lehtonen was pulled after one period in Game 2, having allowed three goals on five shots. Then it was Antti Niemi, pulled less than three minutes into the second period of Game 3, having allowed three goals on 12 shots. It did not set up well for Game 4 on Thursday.

But Lehtonen prevailed at Scottrade Center, stopping 24 of 26 shots in a 3-2 overtime win that tied the best-of-7 series.

The goals he gave up: a breakaway by Vladimir Tarasenko with six Dallas skaters on the ice, and a redirect by Paul Stastny on a 4-on-3 power play.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm4: Lehtonen robs Brouwer's chance

"That's what you need at this point of the season," Lehtonen said. "If you want to get wins, you've got to get good efforts from the goalies and from the players."

The Stars got what they needed from Lehtonen in a game when he could easily have crumbled. But he didn't, making particularly crucial saves, including one just before the game-winning goal by Cody Eakin 2:58 into overtime. Tarasenko picked off a puck and passed it to Jaden Schwartz, who put it on net at 2:45.

"He was fantastic," Eakin said of Lehtonen. "Right before the goal, he made a big stop there. They passed it out from behind, put his pad down and was able to keep it alive for us. He's been great. He's made some huge saves. Kept us in the game when we needed him. He's doing a great job."

The Stars knew they could provide the offense required, but they needed to make sure they weren't in the kind of hole they were in Tuesday, when they lost Game 3 6-1.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm4: Lehtonen denies Lehtera's great chance

"One hundred percent," Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. "I think Kari stepped up to the plate tonight and brought us a great game. Made some big saves in there. It was definitely huge for this hockey club."

The performance should make life easier for Stars coach Lindy Ruff. No longer does he have the specter of his two-goalie system hanging over the team, at least not until after Game 5 in Dallas on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). Ruff said repeatedly the two goaltenders were what got the Stars to this point, that the system worked for them, that he was not worried.

But there were questions, especially after what happened in Games 2 and 3. But they weren't as pressing after Game 4.

Asked about his goaltender after the game, Ruff deadpanned, "Now we've got a decision to make again next game with these two goalies."

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