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Lehtonen Shines as Stars Down Flyers, 2-1

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was winless in his career against the Philadelphia Flyers. Until Tuesday night. Lehtonen turned in a superb 25-save effort to help lead the Stars to a 2-1 victory over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

“It’s been so long. It was nice,” Lehtonen said of beating the Flyers. “Sometimes [in the past] it would creep in the back of my mind with a little bit left in the game [against them]. Today it didn’t. Was able to focus tonight. The guys played really well. We earned the win.”

It was a solid bounce-back performance for Lehtonen, who was pulled in his last start. Philadelphia scored on its second shot of the night, and Lehtonen was perfect after that to secure his first win in 14 decisions against the Flyers (1-10-3).

“I think sometimes you just get in a funk against teams, and you just overcome it sooner or later and tonight was the night,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

Lehtonen stopped 13 of 14 shots in the first period and made some big saves in the second when both teams had great chances. His teammates shut the door on the Flyers in the third.

“I thought he was solid,” Ruff said. “He made the saves when we needed the big save. A couple of situations where we had breakdowns, I thought he read the plays right and was right there. The goal that beat him went off our guy. It was a real clean night for him.”

The Stars fell behind early but got going midway through the first period and tied the game on a Brett Ritchie goal. They outshot the Flyers 30-12 over the second and third periods. Vernon Fiddler scored the game-winner with 6:10 remaining in the third, breaking a 1-1 tie.

“We thought we were standing around the first ten minutes of the first,” Fiddler said. “Once we got rolling and got some pucks behind us and got everyone involved, I thought after that we played a pretty solid fifty minutes.”

The Stars improved to 2-1-0 during their stretch of five straight games on the road and moved to within eight points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“It’s a little bit of a morale boost,” Fiddler said. “You hope you can catch on and get a little streak going, and we are just trying to put a string of games together period by period and hopefully that turns over to game by game. We are hoping to build up this.”

The Flyers lost for the fourth time in the past five games (1-2-2) and fell nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I don’t know what to say. There’s no desperation. … it’s tough to come in a room after games like that where we just needed to have a much better effort. It just wasn't there,” said Flyers goaltender Steve Mason. “I’m embarrassed. I hope everybody else is embarrassed because we have an effort like that at home in situations where we have to come up big, and we come up empty. We have to be a lot better.”

The Flyers scored 1:13 into the game when Luke Schenn’s shot from the point deflected into the net off traffic. The Stars answered at the 11:23 mark. Curtis McKenzie set up Ritchie, who beat Mason off the rush to make it a 1-1 game.

The Stars outshot the Flyers 16-7 in a scoreless second period. Both teams had great chances, both Lehtonen and Mason were outstanding. Lehtonen had sharp stops on Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and then Voracek again. Mason had big saves on John Klingberg and Ritchie late in the frame.

The Dallas penalty kill, which was 3-3 in the game, came up big early in the third. It killed off a full two-minute Philadelphia power play to start the period and held the Flyers to no shots on goal.

“I think that was big for everybody,” Lehtonen said. “It showed that everyone was in it and battling. In front of me they did a great job, especially in the third.”

The Stars broke the tie at the 13:50 mark with a goal off the rush. Colton Sceviour sent a pass from the right wing to Fiddler, who was driving the net and put it past Mason from close range. The goal was the 11th of the season for Fiddler and tied a career-high.

“Congrats for him. That is just a hard goal. He drove the net hard,” Ruff said.

And the Stars and Lehtonen made the lead hold up the rest of the way.

Klingberg injured; Eakin scratched for team discipline issue

*Stars defenseman John Klingberg left the game midway through the third period with an upper-body injury after a hit from Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. There was no update on Klingberg’s status after the game.

*Stars forward Cody Eakin was a scratch Tuesday night. The team announced prior to the game that it was for disciplinary reasons. Stars coach Lindy Ruff did not elaborate after the game.

“Just a team discipline decision. That’s all,” Ruff said.

*Stars defenseman Jason Demers did not play Tuesday night due to illness.

Notes

*Stars center Vernon Fiddler has scored four goals in the past four games.

*Stars forward Brett Ritchie has two goals in the past three games.

*Stars forward Colton Sceviour has three assists in the past two games.

*Stars forward Curtis McKenzie registered his first NHL assist in Tuesday’s game.

*The Stars outshot the Flyers 39-26.

*Ales Hemsky led the Stars with seven shots on goal.

*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars are 15-16 on the penalty kill over the past six games.

*The Stars won 25 of 52 faceoffs (48 percent).

*Shawn Horcoff won 7 of 10 draws (70 percent). Jason Spezza won 10 of 20 (50 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 3 of 13 (23 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:42 of ice time.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves
Antoine RousselJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Ryan GarbuttVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffBrett Ritchie

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jordie BennPatrik Nemeth
Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Cody Eakin

Injured: Jason Demers (illness), Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

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.

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