The Washington Capitals' franchise-record home winning streak couldn't go on forever, and you had to figure if there was one team to bring it to an end, it would be the Dallas Stars. And the Stars, who haven't lost in Washington in more than a decade, did just that, defeating the Capitals, 4-2, Monday night to end Washington's home winning streak at 15 games.
"I heard some rumors [about the streak], some of the guys were talking about it," said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. "But I wasn't too focused on that. I was more worried about how to stop [Capitals forward] Alex Ovechkin."
Lehtonen was outstanding for a second consecutive game, stopping Ovechkin nine times Monday night, and turning away 33 other shots for a season-high 42 saves in leading the Stars to victory at Verizon Center.
"[Lehtonen] has been really solid for us lately," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "We gave up a few chances as the game moved along and he bailed us out. He was definitely the first star for us."
Video: Stars hold off Caps' late rally for 4-2 win
Lehtonen, who stopped 41 shots in a 2-1 win at Florida Saturday, has stopped 83 of 86 shots in the past two games. Fourteen of Lehtonen's saves Monday came with Washington on the power play, and that was key in the Stars going 4-4 on the penalty kill.
"A lot of times if your penalty kill percentage is up there, your goaltender is doing the job for you," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
Devin Shore, Radek Faksa, Jason Spezza and Sharp scored goals for the Stars, who led 1-0 after one period and had a 3-0 lead by early in the second. The Stars won consecutive games on the road for the first time since November.
The Stars won their sixth straight game in Washington, leaving the Capitals without a win over the Stars in D.C. since November 2006. The Stars have points in their past eleven games overall against the Capitals (10-0-1).
The Stars, who are 5-2-0 in their past seven games overall, improved to 27-29-10 on the season and pulled to within five points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We've got to take it one game at a time and just chip away," said Spezza. "We put ourselves in a position where we are chasing, so it is small battles and not big picture."
"It gives us hope still," said Ruff. "It puts us within five points."
The Capitals lost at home for the first time since an overtime defeat at the hands of New Jersey on Dec. 29.
"A little bit of a slow start," said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. "I didn't like our start today. They were faster on pucks, a little more determined early. We started ramping up our game and then a couple of costly turnovers, and they took advantage of it."
The Stars opened the scoring 1:48 into the game when Shore scored from the crease after a wrap-around attempt by Sharp. Washington challenged for goaltender interference, but officials ruled Shore was pushed by a Washington defender into Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, so it was a good goal.
The Stars came close to extending the lead at 8:10 of the first, but a Brett Ritchie shot rang off the post. The Stars penalty kill came up big, stopping two Washington power plays. Five of Lehtonen's 12 saves in the first came with the Capitals on the power play.
The Stars pushed their lead to 3-0 with two goals in just under two minutes in the early stages of the second period. After a Nicklas Backstrom turnover in his own zone, Faksa skated in alone and scored from about 20 feet out to put the Stars up 2-0 at the 4:04 mark. Jamie Benn set up Spezza, who scored off a blast from the right circle at the 5:58 mark to make it 3-0 and the end the night for Holtby, who was replaced by Philipp Grubauer.
Washington cut into the lead late in the second when Backstrom redirected a Kevin Shattenkirk shot past Lehtonen to make it a 3-1 game at 15:52 of the second.
The Capitals kept up the pressure in the third, but couldn't cash in on an early power play chance and just missed scoring when Evgeny Kuznetsov split the Dallas defense and fired a shot off the post. Washington forward T.J. Oshie made it a 3-2 game with 7:34 remaining, tallying off a backhand shot from the slot. But Washington would get no closer, and Sharp sealed the win with a late empty-net goal.
"We hunkered down and weathered the storm the best we could," said Lehtonen, who made 15 saves in the third period. "It was nice to get the two points."
*The Stars are 10-0-1 in their past ten games against Washington including 7-0-1 under coach Lindy Ruff.
*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen has stopped 83 of 86 shots over the past two games for a .965 save percentage.
*Washington had a 44-22 advantage in shots on goal and an 82-48 advantage in shot attempts.
*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with four shots on goal. Brett Ritchie led the Stars with six shot attempts. Washington's Alex Ovechkin had nine shots on goal and 14 shot attempts.
*Stars captain Jamie Benn picked up one assist to run his points streak to seven games (five goals, five assists).
*Stars defenseman John Klingberg recorded one assist to push his points streak to six games (three goals, five assists).
*Washington goaltender Braden Holtby fell to 0-4-0 against Dallas. The Stars are the only team Holtby has not won against in his NHL career.
*The Stars were 4-4 on the penalty kill and 0-2 on the power play.
*The Stars won 23 of 65 faceoffs (35 percent).
*Esa Lindell led the Stars with 25:59 of ice time.
The Stars return home for a game against Ottawa Wednesday before heading back out on a four-game road trip. The Stars and Senators will be meeting for the second and final time this season. The Senators won the first meeting, 3-2, in Ottawa on Feb. 9.
Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Remi Elie - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky
Devin Shore -Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Jiri Hudler, Greg Pateryn
Injured: Antoine Roussel (hand), Mattias Janmark (knee)
This story was not subject to 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.