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Lehtonen shines as Stars top Blues, force Game 7

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are going the distance in their second-round playoff series with the St. Louis Blues. The Stars forced a seventh and deciding game in Dallas, defeating the Blues, 3-2, in Game 6 Monday night at Scottrade Center.

Game 7 is Wednesday at American Airlines Center.

“It has been a heck of a series,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “We’re going home, so it’s nicer to go with the chance to keep playing. That was an exciting game, and we’re glad to get the win.”

Maybe a little more exciting than the Stars wanted after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. The Stars grabbed that lead on goals by Mattias Janmark, Vernon Fiddler, and Jason Spezza, and then they held on for the victory thanks to Lehtonen, who stopped 35 shots including 26 over the final two periods.

“[The Blues] had us on our heels for 50 minutes of the game pretty much,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “Kari was awesome.”

“[Lehtonen] gave us a heck of a game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Tonight he stood tall for us, and that happens in the playoffs. Goalies have to win you games sometimes.”

The Blues outshot the Stars 37-14 in the game and had a 75-25 advantage in shot attempts.

“It was ugly, but a win is a win,” said Stars defenseman Jason Demers. “It’s on to Game 7.”

As for the Blues, they couldn’t overcome that early 3-0 deficit, despite the big shots advantage and possession edge. They fell to 1-3 in elimination games in this year’s playoffs.

“That's a big hole to dig yourself out of in the playoffs,” said Blues forward Alexander Steen. “We made an attempt, we played well after we gave up the third one and started focusing on just gaining momentum and territory bit by bit. We certainly had our fair share of chances to tie it up. Now we're heading back to Dallas.”

The Stars struck for two goals in 20 seconds early in the first period to put the Blues on their heels and quiet the Scottrade Center crowd. Valeri Nichushkin set up Janmark, who tallied on a partial breakaway, roofing a shot on Blues goaltender Brian Elliott at the 4:53 mark. On the next shift, Colton Sceviour put a shot towards the net that Fiddler redirected past Elliott, and it was a 2-0 game at 5:13 of the first. Fiddler’s goal came on his birthday and with his parents in attendance.

“It’s always fun to play on your birthday, and it means the world to me to be playing this time of the year,” Fiddler said. “It was exciting when I heard my parents were coming into town. I got to give my mom a late Mother’s Day present.”


       Ruff: "I think we'll be better in Game 7"
       Kari: "We still have to win two in a row"
       Razor: Kari was lights out in goal tonight

The two teams traded power plays later in the period. The Stars held St. Louis without a shot and then with the Stars on the power play, Spezza made a slick move to get into the slot and beat Elliott with a wrist shot to make it a 3-0 game at 16:49 of the first. That ended the night for Elliott, who allowed three goals on seven shots and was replaced by Jake Allen.

“This isn't a reflection on Brian,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “The is something to help the team. He's carried us, and he's been doing this thing for two months now. The guy has had a hell of a March and a hell of an April and a hell of a May.”

The Blues made a big push in the second period, outshooting the Stars 14-5 and scoring the only goal of the period. Steen scored off the rebound of a Robert Bortuzzo shot at the 7:29 mark to make it a 3-1 game. Lehtonen came up big in the period, including a stop on a Vladimir Tarasenko deflection and a rebound bid by Tarasenko to keep it a 3-1 game.

The Blues continued to push in the third and pulled to within one goal when Jori Lehtera made a nice between the legs pass to Patrik Berglund, who scored from close range to make it a 3-2 game with 11:01 remaining. But the Blues couldn’t get the equalizer. Lehtonen came up with 13 saves in the period, including a big stop on Jaden Schwartz with 23 seconds remaining to preserve the 3-2 lead.

“I thought [Lehtonen] showed great poise,” said Spezza. “Those are hard plays at the end when they’re jamming on him. That save he made on [Schwartz] with [23] seconds left, those are series changing saves.”

And now the series will be settled in a Game 7 Wednesday night in Dallas.

“This series, we talked about two good teams going at it and how tough it’s going to be,” said Ruff. “You’ve got two real good teams that were separated by two points [in the standings] that are going after this in a Game 7.”

Stars forward Travis Moen is out for the rest of the playoffs with an undisclosed injury. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Moen was injured in Saturday’s Game 5 in Dallas.

“Moen won’t be available. He got injured in the game at home. He’s done for the playoffs,” Ruff said.

Patrick Eaves returned after missing four games with a leg injury. He played 14:01, had two shots on goal, five shot attempts, and a plus-one rating.

Colton Sceviour was back in the lineup after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch. He had the primary assist on the Vernon Fiddler and Jason Spezza goals.

“I got pretty well what I needed,” Ruff said. “Made a good play on the Fiddler goal. We really felt we needed size early in this series, which helped our possession. I still think size, we still need size to get some of the possession game. We got a great game out of him. It wasn’t easy taking him out. But we asked for this series to get back to Dallas and that’s where we’re headed.”

*The Stars are 4-2 on the road in this year’s playoffs.

*The visiting team has won four of the six games in the Stars-Blues series.

*Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky combined for six of Dallas’ 14 shots in the game.

*St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a game-high nine shot attempts.

*The Stars were 1-1 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 34 of 67 faceoffs (51 percent).

*Cody Eakin won 17 of 21 faceoffs (81 percent). Radek Faksa won 9 of 17 (33 percent). St. Louis' Paul Stastny won 15 of 22 (68 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 23:37 of ice time. Alex Pietrangelo led the Blues with 28:25 of ice time.

Game 7 is Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.

Game 1 – Apr. 29: Stars 2, Blues 1

Game 2 – May 1: Blues 4, Stars 3 (OT)

Game 3 – May 3: Blues 6, Stars 1

Game 4 – May 5: Stars 3, Blues (OT)

Game 5 – May 7: Blues 4, Stars 1

Game 6 – May 9: Stars 3, Blues 2

Game 7 – May 11: St. Louis at Dallas, 7 p.m.

Jamie BennCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Tyler Seguin (lower body), Travis Moen (undisclosed)

Scratched: Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie, Jack Campbell, Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Brendan Ranford, Justin Dowling

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 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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