- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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The decision to go with Kari Lehtonen in goal on back-to-back night’s turned out to be a good one for the Dallas Stars. Lehtonen was brilliant Friday night in Buffalo, but it wasn’t enough for the Stars to get two points, as they couldn’t hold a 2-0 third period lead and lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Sabres at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres forced overtime, scoring with 38.3 seconds left in regulation.
“I thought right from the beginning we managed our game pretty good and limited their chances. We did what we wanted to do defensively. It came down to the last minute and they had to pull their goalie,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Those things happen in the league. I’m sure we’ll look at the last minute, but the shot gets through, it gets through to the guy on the backside – they’ve got an extra guy – and they get a bounce. That’s just the way it is.”
With the shootout loss the Stars remained winless in the second games of back-to-backs with an 0-8-2 record.
The point they picked up in the game moved them to within one point of eighth place in the Western Conference.
“Obviously we were looking for two points and we were close,” said Stars forward Tomas Vincour, who scored his second goal of the season in the game. “We had a good game and we’ll take the one point and we’ve to get ready for Sunday.”
The Stars took a 1-0 lead late in the first period by cashing in on the game’s first power play. Alex Goligoski’s shot from the left point was tipped into the net by Michael Ryder.
Lehtonen, who originally wasn’t scheduled to start the game, made that lead hold up in the second period, making some great stops including a couple on Buffalo forward Drew Stafford with the Sabres on the power play.
“He’s at the top of his game right now, that’s for sure,” Gulutzan said of Lehtonen.
The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 when Steve Ott knocked Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff off the puck in the corner and Jamie Benn set up Vincour, who scored from close range to give the Stars a 2-0 lead at the 4:17 mark.
But 27 seconds later Stars forward Radek Dvorak was in the penalty box for holding, and Buffalo cashed in on the power play chance to make it a 2-1 game. Jason Pominville centered the puck from the right circle and Thomas Vanek redirected it past Lehtonen at 5:04 of the third.
The Sabres, who outshot the Stars 13-3 in the third, pulled goalie Ryan Miller for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining and they scored with 38.3 seconds remaining to tie. Tyler Myers got a shot on net from just inside the blue line and Derek Roy scored off the rebound.
“Myers made a great shot, Stafford did a great job in front and I found the puck,” said Roy. “We need big goals like that to win games.”
In overtime, Lehtonen came up with another huge save, making a pad save on a wide open Vanek with two seconds remaining.
“I think we played a pretty good game overall. I think we maybe sat back a little too much in the third and gave them some momentum. I think we had only three shots,” said Ryder. “It’s a big point for us, but we would have liked to get two. Give those guys credit, they came at us hard and managed to tie up in the last minute and they won in a shootout. Overall, we had a good game. It’s just a matter of us sticking to the game plan in the third.”
Notes: Morrow out for a while longer
*Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who has missed the last three games with neck/shoulder problems, could be out another at least another couple weeks.
*Stars center Vernon Fiddler was injured in Friday’s game when a puck shot by teammate Mark Fistric hit him in the ankle area. "He's limping around,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We'll get an x-ray and see what goes on there."
*Sheldon Souray missed Friday’s game with a foot injury. He was hit by a puck in Thursday’s game in Columbus. He is day-to-day.
*The Stars are 16-0-1 when leading after two periods.
*The Stars haven’t won a game in Buffalo since Stanley Cup clinching win in 1999. They are 0-4-2 in Buffalo since then.