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Sharp, Lehtonen lead Stars past Blues

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 22 saves to help the Dallas Stars to a 3-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

"We did all the right things. We played the way we needed to play. Our compete level and our attention to smaller details in the game were real good," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Sharp scored what proved to be the game-winning goal via the power play with 1:57 remaining in the first period after collecting his own rebound and knocking the carom past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 35 saves.

"It's a big win for us for a lot of reasons; divisional opponent, a team that had beaten us twice, a team that's tough to play against," said Sharp, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Sunday.

Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin scored for Dallas (27-7-3), which is 15-4-0 at home.

St. Louis (22-12-4), which defeated Dallas 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday at Scotttrade Center, was shut out for the third time this season. The Blues shut out the Stars 3-0 in St. Louis on Dec. 12.

"Yeah, I thought the difference [was], their top players came to play, they set the tone for them and that got us back on our heels," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Lehtonen earned his third shutout of the season and 33rd of this career.

"You look at the game [Saturday] night and comparing it to today, it was night and day. We played a strong game both ends of the ice, and it was fairly easy for me to come back and get going," Lehtonen said.

Benn made it 2-0 with his NHL-leading 23rd goal of the season when he scored with the Stars on a power play 40 seconds into the third period. Sharp's pass from the left side deflected off Jay Bouwmeester before Benn slipped the puck under Elliott at the far post.

"We didn't have a good effort [Saturday] night, and we got to regroup here tonight with a good game," Benn said. "Their goalie, he was on fire back there. I just liked our effort tonight."

Benn is one goal ahead of St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko for the NHL lead after Tarasenko did not score in either game against Dallas this weekend.

"The one (goal) that really hurt us was the second goal (by Benn)," Hitchcock said. "[Bouwmeester] was playing the front of the net, gets cross-checked from behind and the guy (Benn) that cross-checks [Bouwmeester] from behind scores a goal. That really hurt us a lot."

Eakin scored an empty-net goal with 1:32 remaining.

But Hitchcock felt the story was the 21 giveaways the Blues committed, many of which were in the neutral zone.

"We didn't manage the puck properly," Hitchcock said. "We turned it over in the neutral zone all the time. In the first two games we played in our building, we didn't turn it over, but we turned it over all night today and when you play that way against that team, that just feeds what they did, so we couldn't get on our toes because we put ourselves on our heels. They came at us because of the neutral-zone turnovers and we couldn't sustain any zone pressure until really the third period."

Elliott kept St. Louis, which was outshot 38-22 (16-5 in the first period), in the game. He made a diving save against Jordie Benn in the first period and denied Ales Hemsky on an attempted tap-in during the second.

"Results aside, I felt good," Elliott said. "I made a couple good saves to try to keep us in it, but the less than 24-hour turnaround, it just looked like we didn't have the same amount of gas as we did at home. It was tough getting scoring chances. We couldn't really get anything to the inside."

The Stars killed two Blues power plays in the third period, one resulting from a tripping call on Jason Demers and another from a kneeing penalty on Seguin.

"Their power play's been very good, and I thought those two kills were as important as the two power-play goals we scored," Ruff said. "I thought our penalty killers were in shot lanes, they bottled up the entries, we didn't give them a lot of zone time. They've got real good special teams. The Blues have really good special teams, and if you can win that battle you're going to win the game against them."

Elliott was pulled with 2:13 remaining but St. Louis was unable to score with the extra attacker.

"We know we can (compete with Dallas)," Elliott said. "When we don't have the gas or something like that, we have to focus on the little details and play our game instead of the turnovers that they feed on."

Dallas, who is 4-1-1 on the second night of a back-to-back, now has consecutive shutouts at home and hasn't allowed a goal over the past 135:48 on home ice. The Stars defeated the Blackhawks 4-0 on Dec. 22 in their final game before the Christmas break.

"It seems like being back here at home we've slowly started to figure it out. We've just got to continue that," Benn said.

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