The Dallas Stars needed some big saves Wednesday night in Vancouver and Kari Lehtonen delivered. Lehtonen stopped 27 shots for his second shutout of the season and 29th of his career as the Stars opened their three-game road trip with a 2-0 victory over the Canucks.
“He was unbelievable,” Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said of Lehtonen.
The Dallas netminder set the tone for the night 35 seconds into the game, stopping a point blank chance by Radim Vrbata off an odd-man rush. He continued the trend throughout the game, especially in the first period when the Canucks had the better of the play.
“When you are able to make a great first save that gave me lots of confidence. That carried on later in the game,” said Lehtonen. “It was nice to be able to make nice saves in the first when we were not playing great. After that we played really well and dominated the second period. That was a nice road win.”
Colton Sceviour scored in the second period to put the Stars up 1-0. The goal came just nine seconds after Lehtonen stopped a point blank bid by Canucks forward Jannik Hansen.
“When your goalie is playing great you think you can beat anybody,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “A counter punch off a great save is one of the deadliest things in the game.”
Antoine Roussel sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation. The Stars won their second straight game and improved to 12-13-5 on the season and pulled to within seven points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We are taking it one game at a time, but we know we have three left to the break. We want to go out on a good note,” said Goligoski. “We want to put ourselves in a position where we can make another push after Christmas and get in this thing.”
The Canucks, who saw their winless streak hit five games (0-4-1), fell to 18-11-2 on the season.
“Our first and third periods were really good. Second period we didn’t come up to the same level,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “We had enough chances to win the game. We need wins. It was a step in the right direction but not good enough.”
There was no scoring in the first period but the Canucks, who had an 11-5 shots advantage, had some great chances. Lehtonen answered with some great saves. He stopped the point blank bid by Vrbata in the first minute.
“That’s a tough chance to give up the first shift of the game,” said Goligoski. “That’s a huge lift. If that’s in you feel like you are playing catch up right away.”
Lehtonen followed up that save with sharp stops on Linden Vey and Chris Higgins and then stopped Higgins again when the Canucks forward got a shorthanded breakaway.
The Stars dominated play in the second period, ousthooting the Canucks 17-4. But again, Lehtonen helped turn the tide. Just nine seconds after Lehtonen stopped Hansen’s point blank shot, Sceviour took a pass from Shawn Horcoff and slipped a backhand shot by Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack.
“I don’t know how it went in,” Sceviour said. “I just tried to get it to the crease for Horcs or to create a rebound and it hit something and went in.”
Lehtonen came up big again late in the second, stopping Alexandre Burrows on a breakaway on a play that appeared offside.
Lehtonen made 12 more saves in the third period, including three with Vancouver on the power play, to keep the Canucks off the scoreboard. Roussel sealed the win with 26 seconds left, scoring into an empty net.
“[Lehtonen] gave us a fighting chance in the first period, and we answered the bell in the second period. We dominated that part of the game as far as zone time,” said Ruff. “Outside of a couple of turnovers that were tough to digest, I thought we played a pretty solid third period.”
And it all added up to a win for the Dallas Stars, who continue the road trip Friday in Calgary.
*In his last seven appearances against the Canucks, Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 6-0-0 with a 1.12 goals against average and .969 save percentage.
*The Stars have won six straight games against the Canucks.
*The Stars outshot the Canucks 29-27.
*Antoine Roussel led the Stars with four shots on goal.
*The Stars were 4-4 on the penalty kill and 0-2 on the power play.
*The Stars won 37 of 62 faceoffs (60 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 10 of 14 draws (71 percent). Cody Eakin won 13 of 19 (68 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 10 of 17 (59 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 23:04 of ice time.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff juggled his lines during the game. Here is how the Stars ended the night.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Curtis McKenzie – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Travis Morin – Ales Hemsky
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
Suspended: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
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.