Kari Lehtonen didn’t have to make a lot of saves Wednesday night, but he made some big ones and he stopped every shot he faced. Lehtonen turned away 22 shots for his first shutout of the season as the Dallas Stars ran their road winning streak to four games with a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
It was the tenth straight start for Lehtonen since he returned from a lower body injury, and the Stars are 6-2-2 during that stretch.
“[Lehtonen has been] very important,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’ve played some good games, we’ve given away a few points. We’ve played some games where he’s been able to steal some points. I think we are really growing as a team, and we know he is going to have to be the backbone until we get to where we want to get to.”
Lehtonen was particularly sharp in the first half of the game when the Oilers had some good scoring chances.
“I’ve seen some great goaltenders with Timmy [Thomas] in Boston and Tuukka [Rask] and he’s right up there, if not even better with his consistency,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “Every night he is making huge saves for us. We rely a lot on him, but I’d like to take some pressure off him.”
Rich Peverley’s second period goal held up as the game-winner for the Stars, who improved to 9-7-2 on the season. Seguin and Antoine Roussel sealed the win with empty-net goals in the final minute.
The Stars’ penalty kill came up big, going 5-5 in the game and killing off a 1:31 five-on-three Oilers advantage. The Stars power play continued to struggle, going 0-6 and missing out on two five-on-three chances in the third period.
“I think special teams for both teams could have made a difference,” said Ruff. “It seemed like penalty killing prevailed.”
The Oilers (4-14-2) lost their fourth straight game and were shutout for the third straight time at home for the first time in franchise history.
“You need to score to win games,” said Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins. “I thought early we had chances, some great chances that could have been easily converted. We obviously didn’t convert on them. Although I liked our structure, I am not sure we had a shot five-on-five in the second. In the third, we had a few more chances but you’ve got to finish.”
The Stars and Oilers played a scoreless, but fast paced first period. There were scoring chances on both sides, but the Oilers had a couple of great chances. Lehtonen made a spectacular glove save on Jordan Eberle’s point blank chance with 9:51 remaining. Sam Gagner hit the crossbar a little more than two minutes later. Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk had a couple of sharp saves in the period, stopping a Jamie Benn attempt to stuff the puck in at the post and turning away a Seguin blast with the Stars on the power play with 23 seconds left in the period.
The Oilers went on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:31 early in the second period, but couldn’t take advantage. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hit a post and Lehtonen had saves on David Perron and Taylor Hall.
The Stars killed off a fifth Edmonton power play midway through the second period, and a short time later Peverley backhanded the puck on goal, went to the net and roofed the rebound of his own shot to give the Stars a 1-0 lead at the 10:35 mark of the period.
The Stars had four power plays in the third, including 0:17 five-on-three and a 1:12 five-on-three. They also had a Valeri Nichushkin penalty shot with 3:04 remaining, but couldn’t extend the lead.
The Oilers pulled Dubnyk for the extra attacker late in the game, and the Stars sealed the win with a couple of empty-net goals. With the Oilers buzzing in the Dallas zone, Seguin picked off a pass and scored into the empty net from his knees with 51.9 seconds left to make it a 2-0- game.
“We were out there for a solid minute at least and they were making some good plays,” said Seguin. “I just wanted to get it out. It was one of those plays where if it goes in, great, and if it doesn’t, we can call a timeout and get a quick rest.”
Roussel scored off the rush with 13.8 seconds left to round out the scoring in the game and push the Stars over the .500 mark on the road (6-5-0). The Stars continue their road trip Thursday in Calgary.
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.