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Stars Blank Penguins for Third Straight Win

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars rolled out another impressive performance Saturday night, and this time it came against one of the top teams in the league. Kari Lehtonen posted his second shutout in three games, and his teammates scored twice on the power play as the Stars ran their winning streak to three games with a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at American Airlines Center.

Sergei Gonchar, Jamie Benn and Rich Peverley scored for the Stars, who have outscored their opponents, 14-1, during the three-game winning streak.

“The last three games have all been excellent from all three zones,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “This one against a highly skilled team and taking care of special teams probably knocks the other two down a little bit. It was a very good win for our team.”

The Stars rolled out a strong first period, scoring on a power play to take a 1-0 lead. They extended the lead to 3-0 by the midway point of the second period. Through the first 40 minutes of the game they held the Penguins to just 12 shots on goal. Through 60 minutes they ended up holding one of the league’s top scoring teams without a goal.

The Stars won the special teams battle against the top special teams team in the league. The Stars were 2-3 on the power play against the league’s top penalty kill unit. The Dallas penalty kill was 4-4 against Pittsburgh’s top ranked power play.

“Our special teams were really good tonight” said Stars center Cody Eakin. “We were sharp, quick and crispy and doing everything we needed to do.”

The Dallas power play has scored in seven straight games and is 9-24 (37.5 percent) during that stretch. The penalty kill is 15-15 over the last five games.

“Our power play has been a lot better lately and our kill has been great, too,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It’s a big part of the game. Games are so tight, that one goal on special teams can decide games a lot of times.”

Lehtonen was sharp in net, posting third shutout of the season. He has stopped 66 of 67 shots over the last three games.

“He’s been great,” said Goligoski. “His rebound control right now is unbelievable, he is eating everything up.”

“I just keep trying to do what I’ve been trying to do the whole season,” Lehtonen said. “The guys in front of me have played really well, especially tonight.”

The Penguins, who have a 17 point lead in the Metropolitan Division and a seven point lead for first overall in the Eastern Conference, lost for just the third time in the last ten games.

“There’s no looking at the standings and taking your foot off the pedal,” said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. “I think we have seen some teams, we see tonight with this team, they’re really pushing hard right now to get into the playoffs. This is desperation for them and we saw that in their last two games. We saw it again tonight. This was a desperate team, played hard. We have to be able to match that regardless of where our position is or what the standings look like.”

The Stars outshot the Penguins 10-4 in the first period, where the two teams each had a power play chance and the Stars cashed in on theirs. Gonchar beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a slap shot from the high slot with 4:58 left in the period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 early in the second period, scoring on their second power play of the night. Goligoski set up Jamie Benn, who scored from the bottom of the right circle at the 3:13 mark.

It was a 3-0 game midway through the period when Rich Peverley forced a turnover in the neutral zone, took a pass from Shawn Horcoff and beat Fleury with a shot from the right circle at 10:20 of the period.

The Penguins stepped up the pressure in the third period, but Lehtonen and the Stars’ penalty kill held the fort. Pittsburgh had 5:15 of power play time, but the Stars killed it off. Lehtonen ended up stopping all 12 shots he faced in the period to shut the door on the Penguins and help the Stars nail down the victory.

The Stars’ continue the homestand Monday when they take on the Colorado Avalance.

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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