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Stars edge Wild to take 2-0 series lead

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he expected a tougher game from the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, and it was. But the result was the same. The Stars rode a strong performance from Kari Lehtonen, a strange goal from Antoine Roussel and a Jamie Benn breakaway goal to a 2-1 victory over the Wild to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

“It was exactly what we expected, and you have to get through those games,” Ruff said. “By the end of the night, we did a really good job just staying with it.”

But it was a strange road to the end of the night. The Roussel goal, which came early in the second period and gave the Stars a 1-0 lead, was bizarre and a key moment. The puck hit Ales Hemsky’s skate, then hit Roussel’s skate and then went up over the back of the net, rested on Wild’s goalie Devan Dubnyk’s back before falling over the goal line as the net wobbled on its moorings. The goal was initially waved off but after a long review, it was determined to be a good goal.

“I was trying to kick it back on my stick and just perfect,” Roussel said. “It looked like a Crosby goal or something.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t sure how the review would go.

“I’ve seen some crazy ones and seen some that are similar,” Ruff said, “I don’t think I’ve seen one where it’s gone to review, and you don’t know whether it went in, you don’t know if the net is off, you don’t know whether it was high-sticked or you don’t know whether it was kicked. So, there were a lot of options there to go over.”

The Wild didn’t like the result of the review.

“I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone can really riddle me how that’s a goal in the National Hockey League, but it was,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said.

Wild coach John Torchetti said the league looked at everything involved on the play, including Roussel coming out from behind the net and taking a swipe at the puck close to the height of the crossbar.

“[The referee] said we reviewed the kick, we reviewed the high stick, we reviewed the net and the whistle,” Torchetti said.

But there were other key moments in the game, some provided by Lehtonen. The Dallas netminder stopped 25 of 26 shots and came up with several big stops, including a couple big ones early in the game and three in the final minute as the Wild pushed for the equalizer.

“Kari gave us a great game. A couple of saves there late on the six-on-five,” Ruff said. “He was strong all night for us. His goaltending has been very strong going down the stretch here for us.”


       Jamie Benn on finding a way to win
       Ruff: "The games are going to get tougher"
       The Rising: Game Two     
       Razor on the Antoine Roussel Experience

Lehtonen has won eight of his last nine starts dating back to the regular season with a 1.68 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.

“As the year goes on, you get comfortable with things,” Lehtonen said. “I’ve been working on new stuff with the goalie coach. Everything is coming together now, and that’s excellent.”

The Wild played better than in Thursday’s 4-0 loss in the series opener but still were only able to score one goal. Now, they’ll go back home for Games 3 and 4 and look for better results.

“I like our game tonight a lot. I thought we competed hard and thought we did a good job,” Torchetti said. “We were in the game. They won the first two hours of a seven hour series. We have to go home, get our fans, and they’ll be fired up for us. We have to battle harder.”

The Stars outshot the Wild 14-7 in the first period, but Minnesota had some quality chances. Lehtonen stopped Nino Niederreiter breaking in on net 1:02 in the game. He turned away a Mikael Granlund power-play bid later in the period.

The Stars took the lead 3:54 into the second period on the goal that went off Roussel’s skate and over the back of the net and over the goal line.

“I’ve scored goals in many ways, but not like that,” Roussel said.

The Wild didn’t get their first shot on goal in the third period until the 9:22 mark. Just 61 seconds later, the Stars took a 2-0 lead. Cody Eakin set up Benn on a breakaway, and the Dallas captain slipped a backhand shot through Dubnyk’s legs at the 10:23 mark.

Minnesota finally got on the board when Marco Scandella scored off a blast from the left point with the Wild on the power play at 12:42 of the third. That made it a 2-1 game.

With time running down, the Stars took more than a minute off the clock during a delayed penalty call on Minnesota, playing keep away with the puck as the Wild tried to get possession to stop the clock. The result was Minnesota having to kill a penalty with 2:52 left.

“I thought our guys reacted to that situation great,” Ruff said. “To kill some of the clock and make them come after us, and if they came after us we were going to look for an opportunity. That’s an unscripted play. I thought it was just hockey smarts out there by [Jason] Spezza and some of the other guys out there to kill some of the clock. I thought they did a really good job with it.”

Still, the Wild were able to get Dubnyk pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute and get some quality chances late. But Lehtonen stood tall and came up with some big saves, including one on a Mikko Koivu redirection with 29 seconds remaining.

“He's played some good hockey, making big saves at a key time,” Benn said. “We saw that tonight with a few seconds left there. We're going to take this on the road now … It's just going to get harder. Their compete and their will to win is just going to get higher. They're a good team. It's going to be hard to go into their building and get a win. We’ve got to bring our best up there.”

Stars center Tyler Seguin returned to the lineup after missing 11 games (ten regular season, one playoff) due to a cut to his Achilles tendon. He played 15:40 and had one shot on goal. He started out on the top line with Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin and then saw some time on other lines in the game.

“[Getting him back] was important for us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think you can see that stepping inside a playoff game, with a playoff-type intensity, is different than just trying to step in the regular season. So, he’s playing catch up a little bit for us.”

*Antoine Roussel’s goal was his first NHL playoff goal.

*Jamie Benn has points in seven of eight career playoff games (6 goals, 3 assists).

*Over their past 12 games – regular season and playoffs – the Stars have allowed 20 goals (1.67 per game).

*Over their past seven games – regular season and playoffs – the Wild have scored 7 goals (1.00 per game).

*The Stars outshot the Wild 28-26 and had a 77-54 advantage in shot attempts.

*Jamie Benn led the Stars with five shots on goal. Patrick Sharp was tops with nine shot attempts.

*The Stars were 0-5 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 40 of 68 faceoffs (59 percent).

*Radek Faksa won 11 of 17 faceoffs (65 percent). Jason Spezza won 10 of 19 (53 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 16 (50 percent). Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu won 14 of 24 (54 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:07 of ice time.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18,988, a sellout.

The series now shifts to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is Monday night with a start time of 7:30 p.m.

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Mattias Janmark, Travis Moen, Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Brett Ritchie (lower body)

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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