The Dallas Stars continued to roll and the formula for success was familiar. Kari Lehtonen turned in a superb performance in goal and the Stars got another round of depth scoring as they routed the Washington Capitals, 5-0, at Verizon Center Tuesday night.
The win, the third straight for the Stars and their fifth in the last six games, pushed them ahead of Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Lehtonen stopped 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, and the fifth win in his last six starts.
“The last couple games we’ve played hard and got some timely goals,” said Lehtonen. “Tonight the guys let me see the puck a lot. They were shooting it, but most of it was without any screens. That helped me a lot.”
“He made some big saves in the second period and even in the third. He robbed them a couple times,” Stars forward Alex Chiasson said of Lehtonen. “I think we all know this year that he’s our best player and he makes the difference.”
Lehtonen got plenty of goal support. Tyler Seguin’s first period goal held up as the game-winner, but the line of Ray Whitney (one goal, one assist), Dustin Jeffrey (two goals) and Chiasson (three assists) provided the next three goals, including two in a 34-second span of the second period that seemed to unravel the Capitals.
“We rely heavily on Seguin and [Jamie] Benn and this time of year and moving forward the games are going to get tighter and teams are going to focus in on those two, so you are going to need secondary scoring,” said Whitney. “We’ve been getting it for the last two weeks and that’s going to be big the rest of the way.”
The Stars kept Washington’s top ranked power play from being a factor in the game, limiting them to just two power plays through the first 40 minutes and then killing off three power plays late in the game to end up 5-5 on the penalty kill. Ryan Garbutt added a late shorthanded goal to add to the penalty kill’s successful night.
Washington, which came into the game one point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, lost their fourth straight game (0-2-2).
“In hindsight, probably the thing that bothers me the most is that we had a very good first period, very good. In terms of desperation I thought the guys played very solid in the first period,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates. “We let a goal in the second period deflate us. That’s surprising, if anything. The third period is as ugly as it can get, and unfortunately those things happen sometimes.”
The Stars outshot the Capitals 14-12 in the first period, both teams had scoring chances but the Stars tallied the only goal. Seguin batted the puck to Jamie Benn and then went to the net and tipped in Benn’s shot from the left circle to put the Stars up 1-0 with 4:52 left in the period.
The Stars had a 15-10 shots advantage in the second and scored two goals in a 34-second span to extend their lead to 3-0. Whitney finished off a two-on-zero rush, taking a pass from Chiasson and slipping the puck past Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak with a slick move at 9:16 of the period.
“I felt like he had 1,300 games and he find would find a way to put it in,” Chiasson said of his assist on the play.
Jeffrey made it 3-0 at the 9:50 mark, grabbing a rebound and scoring off a scramble in front of the Washington net.
“Chiasson went to the net and caused havoc there. He drew attention,” Jeffrey said. “Trevor Daley made a nice play to get the puck on net and with some of our bigger forwards getting to the net to create the havoc, I was able to get the rebound. It was a credit to Chaser for getting there.”
That was it for Halak, who was pulled and replaced in the Washington net by Braden Holtby.
The Capitals went on a power play late in the second, and came close to scoring but Alex Goligoski got to a puck that was sitting behind Lehtonen before any Washington player could knock it into the net.
The Stars made it a 4-0 game midway through the third when Chiasson and Whitney set up Jeffrey, who scored from the right circle off the rush at the 9:55 mark for this second goal of the night.
Washington had a third power play late, but Ryan Garbutt beat Caps defenseman Mike Green to loose puck, broke in on net and beat Holtby with backhand shot to make it 5-0 Dallas with 5:10 left in the game.
The Stars continue their road trip Thursday when they play at Carolina.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.