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Spezza, Lehtonen lead Stars past Oilers

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

A big save from Kari Lehtonen followed seconds later by a Jason Spezza goal – his third of the night – propelled the Dallas Stars to a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday at American Airlines Center.

With the Stars and Oilers tied 2-2 late in the third period, Lehtonen stopped Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov on a breakaway with 4:41 remaining and 11 seconds later Spezza took a drop pass from Antoine Roussel and scored from the slot to put the Stars up 3-2.

“That breakaway save [by Lehtonen] was a game-saver for us,” Spezza said. “He stops a breakaway, and we go down the other way and score and that is the hockey game. That’s a huge save at a big time. It’s what we needed and gives us the ability to win the game.”

The win was a solid bounce back effort from Saturday’s loss in Colorado when the Stars squandered a 3-1 lead and were outscored 3-0 in the third period. Tuesday they surrendered a 2-0 lead and headed to the third period tied, but dominated play outshooting the Oilers 20-6 over the final 20 minutes.

“I can’t say enough how we played in the third. We played great in the third,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “When you are playing that hard and pressing that hard to try to win a game, we made one poor decision that gave them a breakaway, but Lehts came up probably the play of the game.”

Lehtonen, making his first start of the season, stopped 26 of 28 shots.

“He was excellent,” Ruff said. “There was nothing he could do about the first two goals. Rock solid.”

“There was a lot of excitement,” Lehtonen said of his first start of the season. “It was nice to get simple shots in the first period and get going from there. I thought it went well. I am happy about that and need to keep going.”

Spezza’s hat trick and a Jamie Benn goal provided the offense for the Stars, who outshot the Oilers 52-28 and had an 87-48 advantage in attempted shots.

“I think we had the puck for the majority of the game,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “If we play the majority of our games like that, getting 50-plus shots, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

The Oilers got a spectacular performance from goaltender Anders Nilsson, who stopped 48 of 51 shots, but fell to 0-3-0 on the season.

“We weren’t in that game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “To be as close as we were at the end was a little bit misleading I think. Anybody that sat and watched that knows that we weren’t within a goal by any means, fortunate to be there at the end. I thought that Anders made some tremendous saves. Obviously, on one or two of the goals, he’d probably like to have them back but I don’t know how you could be disappointed in his performance.”

The Stars dominated play in the first, outshooting the Oilers 18-9, but they had a hard time cracking Nilsson, who came up with several big saves. But with 2:12 left in the period Spezza put a shot on net from the right corner that got by Nilsson to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

The Stars made it a 2-0 game early in the second when Jamie Benn scored on a wrap-around at the 2:42 mark. About 40 seconds later, Spezza came close to making it a 3-0 game but Nilsson stopped his close range backhand bid. Nilsson made stops on Patrick Sharp and Benn to keep it a 2-0 game, and then the Oilers bounced back to tie.

A shot from the point by Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom deflected off traffic and past Lehtonen to cut Dallas’ lead to 2-1 at 10:55 of the second. Just 1:18 later Oilers rookie Connor McDavid scored his first NHL goal, redirecting an Andrej Sekera shot from the point past Lehtonen to tie the game at 2-2.

“It’s pretty special obviously. It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” McDavid said. “Obviously not the way you want to end that game but pretty special to get it right away.”

But the McDavid goal just set the stage for an impressive third period for the Stars, who dominated play and got a big save from Lehtonen and then a big goal from Spezza.

“I thought we played a good game for 60 minutes,” said Spezza. “We talked about just sticking with it. That’s where we have to have the maturity as a team to stick with it and find a way to win the game.


Eaves injured

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left Tuesday’s game in the first period with a lower-body injury. He did not return.

“It looks like he is going to miss a little bit of time,” Ruff said. “I’ll have a better update tomorrow, but it doesn’t look like it is a day-to-day type thing.


Notes

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with ten shots on goal and 15 shot attempts.

*Jason Spezza had eight shots on goal and Patrick Sharp had seven.

*Spezza’s hat trick was the sixth of his career and first as a Dallas Star.

*Mattias Janmark assisted on Spezza’s first goal, running his points streak to three games (two goals, one assist).

*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 38 of 61 faceoffs (62 percent).

*Spezza won 11 of 16 faceoffs (69 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 12 (67 percent). Tyler Seguin won 9 of 17 (53 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 5 of 8 (63 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars in ice time with 26:18.


What’s next

The Stars practice in Frisco on Wednesday and then head out on a four-game road trip that will take them to Tampa Bay, Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.


Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn


Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi


Scratched:
Valeri Nichushkin, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: None

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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