The Dallas Stars have put an end to some impressive runs this season, and they added another to the list Saturday night. Kari Lehtonen pitched a 25-save shutout, and Jason Spezza scored the game-winning goal as the Stars ended Carolina's franchise-record points streak at 13 games with a 3-0 victory that also dealt a huge blow to the Hurricanes' playoff hopes.
"We knew how hungry they were," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "All we could do is play spoilers and take pride in how we play."
Earlier this season, the Stars snapped a ten-game winning streak by the Philadelphia Flyers and ended a 15-game home winning streak by the Washington Capitals. Carolina entered Saturday's game on a 9-0-4 run.
Saturday's shutout was Lehtonen's second in his past six starts, and it continues a strong goals-against run for the Stars, who have allowed just ten goals over their past seven games.
"We played a simple game, especially in our own zone," said Lehtonen. "We kept their chances pretty low, and that always helps. We' got the goal [by Spezza] and then hunkered down in the third. It was just a good effort from everybody."
Spezza's game-winner came early in the second period. John Klingberg and Devin Shore sealed the win with empty-net goals for the Stars, who improved to 4-2-1 over their past seven games and are now 32-35-11 on the season.
"[Carolina] is a team that is playing really well and that was a good road game for us," Spezza said. "We played pretty patient. They had a few chances, but we kept them to the outside."
Saturday's loss left the Hurricanes (35-28-14) six points out of a playoff spot with just five games remaining.
"We've played some great hockey and given ourselves a chance," said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal. "This hurts. It's been a fun ride."
There was no scoring in the first period, but the Hurricanes had some great chances to grab the lead. Lehtonen made a nice save on Carolina forward Lucas Wallmark after a Stars defensive zone turnover. Carolina had a three-on-one rush, but Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis broke it up by sliding to take a Jeff Skinner pass away. Carolina had a three-on-zero rush while on a power play, but couldn't get off a shot on goal.
"We created some odd-man rushes and some opportunities, and we just weren't able to execute," Skinner said.
The Stars got a good chance early in the second period and cashed in to take a 1-0 lead. Remi Elie used a bank pass to set up Spezza on the rush, and Spezza roofed a shot from the left circle at the 4:46 mark. Elie came close to extending the lead a little less than three minutes later, but his shot from about ten feet out was turned away by Carolina goaltender Cam Ward.
Lehtonen made 13 of his 25 saves on the night in the third period, including a big one on a point-blank shot by Teuvo Teravainen just over three minutes into the period to keep the Stars up by one. About four minutes later, Spezza got a clean breakaway but lost the puck as he tried to go to his backhand and it stayed a one-goal game.
But Klingberg and Shore scored empty-net goals 32 seconds apart with under two minutes to play to put the game away and give the Stars the 3-0 victory.
*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 4-1-1 in his past six starts with a 1.32 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and two shutouts.
*Saturday's shutout was the third of the season for Lehtonen and the 37th of his career.
*The Stars have allowed two goals or fewer in six of their past seven games.
*Carolina outshot the Stars 25-24 and had a 51-38 advantage in shot attempts.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with five shots on goal. Seguin and Brett Ritchie co-led the Stars with six shot attempts.
*The Stars were 1-1 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars had no power plays, the first time this season they've failed to get a power-play in a game.
*The Stars won 22 of 54 faceoffs (41 percent).
*Esa Lindell led the Stars with 23:25 of ice time.
The Stars wrap up their five-game road trip and their road schedule for the season when they play at Tampa Bay on Sunday. This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Stars and Lightning. The Stars won the first meeting, 4-3 in overtime, in Dallas on February 18.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Cody Eakin - Jason Spezza
Gemel Smith - Radek Faksa - Adam Cracknell
Jason Dickinson - Justin Dowling - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth - Julius Honka
Scratched: Stephen Johns
Injured: Jamie Oleksiak (lower body), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jiri Hudler (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (eye), Patrick Sharp (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
This story was not subject to 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.