Skip to main content
playoffs

Stars could switch goalies again for Game 3

Ruff won't say who will start Tuesday after Niemi relieves Lehtonen in Game 2 loss

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- Coach Lindy Ruff has to make a decision about his goaltending before the Dallas Stars play the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round.

Does Ruff stick with Kari Lehtonen, who made 31 saves in a 2-1 win in Game 1 on Friday but was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in the first period of Game 2 on Sunday? Or does he give the start to Antti Niemi, who relieved Lehtonen to start the second period of Game 2 and stopped 19 shots before allowing the game-winner to David Backes in overtime?

Backes scored a power-play goal off a rebound at 10:58 of overtime to give the Blues a 4-3 victory that evened the best-of-7 series at 1-1. Game 3 is Tuesday at Scottrade Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Ruff indicated that he'll weigh a lot of factors before making his decision.

"[I'll] just digest the game, take some time" he said. "It's the same as we've done all year. It's [a question of] whether we go and let Kari bounce back. It just seems there comes a point sometimes here [when] Kari needs a rest, [he] plays well after that. So we'll make that decision sometime [Monday]."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Niemi stones Brouwer with the pad

Ruff used each of his goaltenders in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. Lehtonen won Games 1 and 2 in Dallas but struggled in Game 3, a 5-3 loss by the Stars at Xcel Energy Center on April 18. Ruff switched goalies and started Niemi in Game 4, a 3-2 Dallas victory that gave the Stars a 3-1 lead in the series. Niemi started in Game 5, but the Wild won 5-4. Ruff went back to Lehtonen for Game 6, and the Stars hung on for a 5-4 series-clinching victory.

Niemi was solid in relief on Sunday; he allowed only the overtime goal by Backes, who knocked in a rebound after Alexander Steen's slap shot from the right circle hit Niemi.

"It hit the pad and I think the rebound went straight to their tape and [Backes] put it in on the short side," Niemi said of the game-ending goal.

Lehtonen and Niemi have the backing of their teammates, who say they're OK with either one in goal.

"Some games happen like that; screen shots, rebounds, funny bounces," said center Cody Eakin, who had three assists. "They both have been great for us, and we're confident every time they go in between the pipes. They continue to play strong and give us a chance to win every night."

Ruff said his decision to pull Lehtonen after the first period boiled down to simple logic.

"It really wasn't his night and I felt that he was off and just went decided to go with Antti," he said.

The coach was pleased with Niemi's performance in relief.

"I thought he made some good saves," Ruff said. "I don't think he had any action in the third at all and he made a couple saves in the overtime on their first power play. The initial thought is I thought he was pretty good."

View More