Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen got some attention when he sat on the goal during a break in Thursday’s game in Calgary. Sunday night in Vancouver Lehtonen stood tall, stopping 42 of 43 shots as the Dallas Stars defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, to run their road winning streak to six games.
“He’s something else back there,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We’ve seen it throughout the year so far. Sometimes we are not starting the way we want or finishing the way we want, but he was there to back us up for 60 minutes tonight. Thank God we had him.”
Lehtonen is 8-2-2 while making 12 straight starts since returning from a lower body injury. He was especially impressive early in Sunday’s game and then in the second period, when the Canucks outshot the Stars 20-6. The Stars were outshot 43-23 in the game.
“He was great for us tonight. You could tell he had great focus and was on his game,” said Stars forward Erik Cole, who scored the game-winning goal. “He really helped us weather the storm in the second period. He was great on the penalty kill, five-on-five and we just kind of gutted one out when they had a strong push on us. Then we played a real strong third period.”
The Stars, who improved to 11-7-2 on the season, swept their second straight three game road trip. This latest one a journey that took them through Western Canada with stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“We’re building confidence in here as a group starting with our last road trip. We went into some tough buildings in Boston and Detroit, and just continuing on this one,” said Benn. “We’re building confidence as a group and we’re finding ways to win. Some aren’t pretty, but we’re getting the job done.”
The Canucks, who lost their fourth straight game, fell to 11-8-3 on the season. Vancouver has scored just four goals during the four-game slide.
“This is very frustrating because we're losing points,” said Canucks forward Henrik Sedin. “We're still playing well, but we need goals.”
The Stars and Canucks got off to a wide open start and there were some good chances on both sides. Lehtonen came up with a couple of big saves for the Stars, stopping Henrik Sedin on a breakaway 50 seconds into the game and then denying Zack Kassian at the 4:56 mark.
The Stars took a 1-0 lead at the 9:33 mark when the top line, which was coming off a magnificent performance in Calgary on Thursday, popped in a goal. Jamie Benn chipped the puck behind the net and Tyler Seguin backhanded the puck to Valeri Nichushkin, who beat Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo from close range.
The Canucks went on the game’s first power play at 10:48 of the first, but the Stars’ limited them to just one shot on goal.
The Canucks outshot the Stars 20-6 in the second, had a goal waved off and another shot hit the post and were still down 1-0 heading into the second intermission.
“We had a lot of chances and we didn’t get rewarded,” said Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows.
The Canucks went on their third power play of the game at 6:27 of the second, appeared to score 14 seconds into to tie the game, but the goal by Henrik Sedin was waved off due to a goaltender interference call on Daniel Sedin. The Canucks disagreed with the call.
"We need to get that call right....All the crap we review, and we don't review that?” said Canucks coach John Tortorella. “It’s the wrong call. It’s the wrong call.”
Lehtonen came up with a big save on Kevin Bieksa as the Stars killed off the rest of the power play.
The Canucks went on another power play a short time later, but couldn’t take advantage of that one and the Stars held onto their 1-0 lead.
The Canucks came close to tying it with about two minutes remaining in the second, but a Burrows redirection rattled off the post.
Lehtonen stopped Ryan Kesler 46 seconds into the third, and then the Stars scored on a two-on-rush to take a 2-0 lead. Cody Eakin set up Erik Cole, who scored at the 1:42 mark to give the Stars a little breathing room.
“They were pinching and [Alex] Chiasson made a nice play off the glass to get it out and get a foot race,” said Cole. “Eaks showed good patience on the pass, let the guy slide through the lane a little bit and made a nice play to get it over to me.”
But Ryan Garbutt took a cross-checking penalty a little more than a minute later to put the Canucks on their fifth power play and Henrik Sedin scored off a rebound of a Kesler shot to cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1 with 16:54 left in the game.
The Stars tightened things up things up the rest of the way, and limited Vancouver’s opportunities.
The Canucks pulled Luongo with more than a minute left, but couldn’t get the equalizer. Lehtonen came up with one more big save, kicking out a pad to stop a close range shot by Henrik Sedin to shut the door on the Canucks for the night.
“On given nights your goaltender has to be big for you, and he was big for us tonight,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen. “You are not going to dominate every period and if your goaltender can get you through some tough ones, you are going to win a lot of games.”
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.