The Dallas Stars made it two straight wins and three in the last four games, defeating the Vancouver Canucks, 4-1, at American Airlines Center Thursday night. The Stars scored two goals 15 seconds apart early in the game to take the lead and they never looked back.
“We got off to a great start in the game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “After a couple of rough stretches, we played a pretty solid game. And I thought we got some big timely saves when we needed them.”
Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 of 28 shots, winning for just the third time in his last nine starts.
“It was fun playing out there and I was able to make a couple of good saves in the first and a couple in the second,” Lehtonen said. “I have had a rough go the past couple of weeks, so it was nice to play a good game.”
Erik Cole led the offense with one goal and two assists. Jamie Benn, Colton Sceviour and Valeri Nichushkin also scored. Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin each chipped in two assists.
The Stars won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 13-17, when they won three straight.
“We can’t be a team that is going to win three, lose two, lose three and win one. You’re not going to gain any ground, especially in the West,” said Cole. “We all know what a big stretch of games this is against all these teams that we are chasing. It’s nice that we were able to get another two here at home, especially where we have struggled.”
Thursday’s win was the Stars’ fourth in the last seven games, but they do have points in six of those games (4-1-2). The Canucks dropped their second straight game following a seven-game winning streak.
“Our first 10 [minutes] wasn’t good enough,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “I thought after that we were right there and we should have scored a few more goals. I think tonight the difference was our power play couldn’t score. It’s been scoring lately but tonight we needed a goal from our power play to get back in the game.”
The Stars scored two goals 15 seconds apart early in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. Seguin set up Jamie Benn off the rush and the Stars captain flicked the puck past Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo from about 20 feet out at the 4:34 mark.
Then the Stars made it 2-0 when Peverley set up Sceviour off the rush, and Sceviour scored into the open side of the net from close range at the 4:49 mark.
“When you are at home you want to get your pressure on and get after the other team,” said Peverley. “And when you can bury some chances it is a big confidence booster for the whole team.”
Less than three minutes later the Canucks cut the Dallas lead to 2-1 when Chris Higgins scored off the rush, beating Lehtonen with a shot from the right circle at 7:38 of the first period.
Lehtonen came up big early in the second, making a slick glove save on Jannik Hansen’s close range bid 1:17 into the period to keep the Stars up 2-1.
“The defining moment of the game there was his save on Hansen,” said Peverley. “That could have made it a 2-2 game. That was a turning point right there.”
Added Ruff, “When you talk about you need a save at the right time, we got a save at the right time.”
Lehtonen had another big save at 6:50 of the second, denying a Dan Hamhuis bid from the left circle. Lehtonen and the Dallas penalty kill came up big late in the second, stopping the Canucks on their second power play chance of the night.
Then the Stars extended their lead to 3-1 when Cole put a shot on net from the left circle off the rush, and it snuck through Luongo’s legs, giving the Stars a 3-1 lead with 3:04 left in the second period.
“I’m not sure [what happened],” Luongo said. “It was a wrister I stopped through my glove. I think it might have fallen between my legs or something and just trickled in, something along those lines. But whatever it is, it’s inexcusable at that point in the game.”
The Stars appeared to take a 4-1 lead with 22 seconds left in the second, but the goal was waved off when Ryan Garbutt was penalized for interfering with Hamhuis.
The Stars killed off that penalty and then extended the lead when Cole took a pass from Seguin and made a spinning backhand pass to Nichushkin, who beat Luongo from the bottom of the right circle at 2:23 of the third period.
That ended the night for Luongo, who surrendered four goals on 19 shots. Eddie Lack took over in net for the Canucks. There was no scoring after that as the Stars did a pretty good job of shutting it down in the third period.
The Stars now hit the road for games in San Jose (Saturday) and Los Angeles (Monday).
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.