It was a mixed bag for the Dallas Stars Tuesday night. On the positive side, they made the most of their opportunities, scoring six goals on their first 15 shots in defeating the Vancouver Canucks, 6-3, at American Airlines Center.
Another positive was a sparkling 43-save effort from goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
On the negative side, that Lehtonen had to make that many saves. The Stars allowed 46 shots in the game, including 34 over the final two periods.
“That’s a tough [game] to assess,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We started the game and did a lot of great things and defensively we really struggled. I thought our defense had a tough time down low. We made some poor decisions that led to some pretty big chances … but when the game was right there, I thought we were the better team. When it got out of hand, we had too many guys leaning on the offensive side and not pay a big enough price to keep it pretty comfortable. I thought Lehts made some big saves. He was our best player by far.”
Lehtonen had a huge save on a Jannik Hansen shorthanded breakaway when the game was still 1-0 in the first period. He had several more superb saves over the final two periods as the Canucks tried to climb back into the game.
“That’s what Kari does. He makes big saves when we need them. He’s always done that. It’s not a surprise,” said Stars forward Erik Cole. “He’s been a little critical of himself here in the early going, but that was a real strong effort he can hang his hat on and build from there.
Cole scored two goals for the Stars. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Garbutt and Cody Eakin also tallied. Overall, twelve different players registered points in the game for the Stars, who won their first home game of the season and improved to 3-1-2 overall.
“We’ve lost one game in regulation so far. I think anyone sitting in our position is actually pretty excited about what’s happening,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “It shows where we are at, where we could go and the potential we have. I think that’s a positive thing in this dressing room.”
The Canucks lost their second straight game and fell to 3-2-0 on the season.
“I thought they put lots of pressure on us,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. “They’ve got good speed on their attack. They went to the net hard and the goals they look fortunate, but they got goals because they worked hard and put pressure on our net.”
The Stars built a 3-0 lead through the first 20 minutes and upped it to 5-0 early in the second. At that point the shots were basically even in the game, but after that the Canucks had the Stars on their heels at times and Lehtonen came up with several big stops to keep Vancouver from getting back in the game.
“They made a little bit of a push and took some risks. We got ourselves in some penalty trouble and gave them some momentum,” said Cole. “We sat back and we weren’t playing a real sound defensive game as a five-man unit in the defensive zone. We’re just giving up too much. … We need to work on it, we need to get better at it.”
The Stars opened the scoring 4:08 into the game. Garbutt received credit for the goal when his centering pass for Eakin was tipped into the net by Canucks forward Alex Burrows.
Lehtonen came up big with 3:07 left in the period and the Stars on the power play, stopping the shorthanded breakaway by Hansen to keep it a 1-0 game.
“When your goalie makes a save like that, it gives you good momentum,” Ruff said.
Just 21 seconds later, Jordie Benn set up Cole, who beat Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller with a shot from the slot to put Dallas up 2-0 with 2:14 left in the period.
The Stars struck with 43 seconds later when Jamie Benn tried to score on a wrap-around and the puck rebounded to Seguin, who scored from the right circle to make it a 3-0 game.
The Stars kept pouring it on in the second. Jamie Benn scored off a shot from the right circle that deflected in off the stick of Miller at the 48 second mark. Just 29 seconds later, Garbutt set up Eakin, who scored from close range, and it was 5-0 Dallas. That ended the night for Miller, who was replaced by Eddie Lack.
Radim Vrbata tallied for Vancouver, but Cole scored off a centering pass from Shawn Horcoff 65 seconds later, and the Stars had a 6-1 lead by the 44:44 mark of the second. Zack Kassian scored for Vancouver with 6:05 left in the second to make it a 6-2 game, deflecting a Chris Tanev point shot past Lehtonen.
The Canucks kept up the pressure in the third, outshooting the Stars 16-9 and getting a goal from Hansen to make it a 6-3 game. But that was as close as Vancouver got and the Stars secured that first home win.
“It was a great feeling,” said Daley. “Two points – that’s all that matters. The positive thing we take from tonight is that we got two points.”
Quotable: Lindy Ruff on shot differential
“I’m concerned, I think our defense needs to play better. It hasn’t played well enough. There’s been some games when we’ve played two periods, one period, thirty minutes…the shot differential tonight leaned heavily in their favor. That’s an obvious statement. Last game was the same. Shot differential wasn’t the same but the chances were still there and, sooner or later, that catches up to you unless you correct it.”
*The Canucks outshot the Stars 46-28.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with six shots. Radim Vrbata led the Canucks with seven.
*The Stars were 1-6 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill.
*Dallas won 40 of 70 faceoffs (57 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 9 of 14 draws (64 percent. Jason Spezza won 10 of 17 (59 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 8 of 14 (57 percent). Shawn Horcoff won 6 of 15 (40 percent).
*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 26:04 of ice time. Trevor Daley was next with 25:22
*Seguin is on a four-game points streak and has ten points (five goals, five assists) during that stretch.
*Jamie Benn has eight points (four goals, four assists) during his four-game points streak.
*Both forward Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin) and defenseman Sergei Gonchar (ankle) resumed skating this week. Nichushkin skated both Monday and Tuesday and could join the team for practice Wednesday. Gonchar skated Monday and is expected to skate again Wednesday.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: F Patrick Eaves, D Jyrki Jokipakka
Injured: RW Valeri Nichushkin (groin/hip), D Sergei Gonchar (ankle), D Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration)
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.