The Dallas Stars and Kari Lehtonen haven't given up much in recent games, and they remained tough to crack through two periods Tuesday night in Montreal. But the Montreal Canadiens scored four straight goals over the final 22 minutes of the game to rally past the Stars, 4-1, at Bell Centre.
The Stars got off to a good start and took a 1-0 lead 1:47 into the game, but play started to tilt Montreal's way midway through the first period, and the Canadiens tied the game late in the second and then broke it open in the third.
"The first ten minutes was the best part of our game, and then they took over and kept coming after us, said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "Our goalie kept us in it as long as he could. We just didn't have enough tonight."
Lehtonen, who had allowed just four goals in the previous four games, was rock solid in holding off the Canadiens for almost 40 minutes, but let in a couple of tough ones in giving up four goals on 36 shots.
"He might have hit the wall," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen. "We've played him a lot. He gave us two solid periods and then two got by him. He's played a lot for us lately. We've pushed the limit with him."
Curtis McKenzie scored the lone goal for the Stars. Dallas, which was mathematically eliminated from the playoff race on Monday night, fell to 31-34-11 on the season.
Carey Price, who got the start in goal after Al Montoya was injured in Tuesday morning's skate, was superb for Montreal in stopping 27 of 28 shots. The Canadiens moved four points ahead of Ottawa in the race for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We didn't start the game that well, but as it moved along we started to find the game we wanted to play," said Montreal forward Artturi Lehkonen. "Overall it was a good performance."
The Stars struck early to take a 1-0 lead. McKenzie fired a shot off the end boards, got his own rebound and put it into the net at 1:47 of the first period.
The Stars had control of play early in the first, but Montreal pushed back, outshooting the Stars 14-1 over the last 15 minutes of the period. But Lehtonen was sharp in goal and kept the Stars up by one heading into the first intermission.
Both goaltenders continued to be sharp in the second period, but the Canadiens finally cracked Lehtonen late in the second when Max Pacioretty slipped a backhand shot through the Dallas netminder at the 15:49 mark.
Price kept it a 1-1 game a short time later, stopping McKenzie as he broke in all alone on net and that kept it a 1-1 game going into the third.
Price made 11 of his 27 saves in the third period including back-to-back stops on Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson early in the period to keep it a tie game. And then his teammates gave him some goal support.
Brendan Gallagher scored from the right circle off the rush to put the Canadiens up 2-1 at 3:21 of the third. Lehkonen beat Lehtonen with a knuckling puck from just beyond the right circle to extend the lead to 3-1 at the 13:02 mark. And Alexander Radulov put on the finishing touches, breaking in on net and burying a backhand shot to make it a 4-1 final.
Benn vs. Benn
Stars captain Jamie Benn and brother Jordie Benn played against each other for the first time Tuesday night, but there wasn't a lot of head-to-head action. The Benn brothers were both on the ice when Dallas was on its lone power play of the game midway through the third period.
"Losing is not fun but playing against him is pretty fun," Jamie said. "He looks good in the red and blue. It was a pretty cool experience for myself and Jordie. We'll probably remember that one for a while."
The Dallas captain didn't recall that special teams shift against his brother, but he did remember one encounter with Jordie, who was traded from Dallas to Montreal in late February.
"I skated by him on the bench and punched him in the glove," Jamie said. "That's as close as I got to him."
*Montreal outshot the Stars 36-28 and had a 73-51 advantage in shot attempts.
*Jamie Benn led the Stars with six shots attempts.
*Curtis McKenzie has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past five games.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 30 of 63 faceoffs (48 percent).
*Greg Pateryn led the Stars with eight hits.
*Esa Lindell led the Stars with 23:24 of ice time.
The Stars play game three of their road trip Thursday night in Boston. It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Stars and Bruins. Boston won the first meeting, 6-3, in Dallas on February 26.
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Devin Shore
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Jason Spezza
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Greg Pateryn
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Patrick Sharp (hip), Jiri Hudler (lower body), 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.