Thursday, October 13, 2011
Kari Lehtonen, special teams carry Stars over Blues
By Mark Stepneski
DALLAS -- Another game, another big performance for Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. On Thursday night he stopped 36 of 38 shots to help lead the Stars to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center.
In his three starts this season, Lehtonen is 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals against average and a league-best .966 save percentage.
“He’s been spectacular,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We can’t ask for anything more than he has given us. He’s single-handedly won two games for sure.”
Those would be the last two games. He stopped 40 shots Monday in a win over Phoenix and then the 36-save performance Thursday. For the season, Lehtonen has stopped 113 of 117 shots.
“It’s been lots of work and work at the practices. I try to do my best,” Lehtonen said when asked about the keys to his early season success. “Sometimes when things go this well you get lucky also and you just have to be happy about that and try to keep it the same way as long as possible.”
The Stars, who improved to 3-1-0 on the season, also got a big boost from their special teams. The penalty kill was 5-5 and contributed a shorthanded goal and the power play, which has struggled early this season, kicked in a goal as well.
“Specialty teams was the difference,” said Gulutzan. “We got one shorty, one power play and that kind of helped us out and goaltending for sure.”
But it was a tale of two games for the Stars. They were strong through the first part of the game building an early lead, and were under siege at times in the second half and had to hang on to win the game.
“The room is pretty quiet. I think people are recognizing in that locker room that we had a little bit better effort than we had before, but our game is still not there. We have a lot of work to do before our goalie gets too tired. We have a lot of work to do,” said Gulutzan. “It seems like we change the way we play if we get up or down, then we'll change the way we are approaching the game. Good teams don't do that. They play the same way for 60 minutes. We're not there yet. I thought we played 25-30 pretty good minutes.”
Loui Eriksson opened the scoring for the Stars, scoring on a shorthanded breakaway with 1:10 left in the first period to Dallas up 1-0. After getting to a puck that Steve Ott had banged off the boards, Eriksson broke in on net and slipped the puck through St. Louis goalie Jarsoslav Halak’s five-hole with a backhand shot.
“I saw Otter got it in the corner and shot it out there and it bounced out to me,” Eriksson said. “I’ve done that (move) a couple of times before and worked it again today.”
The Stars added two more goals in the second, an even strength goal from Adam Burish, who finished off a pass from Trevor Daley, and a power play tally from Brenden Morrow to make it a 3-0 game with 5:39 remaining in the second. But a a goal by Matt D’Agostini 20 seconds later got the Blues back in the game. St. Louis’ Chris Stewart scored early in the third to make it a 3-2 game.
The Stars killed off two penalties after that and Lehtonen came up with some sharp saves to keep St. Louis from getting the equalizer.
"We played really well the first 30 minutes and the other 30 minutes we didn't play that well. Kari has been saving us the last couple games,” said Eriksson. “I think we have to do a much better job. But it's nice to get the two points."
*Tom Wandell, Eric Nystrom and Philip Larsen were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*Nicklas Grossman, who missed the first three games of the season, played his first game of the season Thursday.
*Krys Barch, who had been a scratch the first three games, played his first game of the season.
*Adam Pardy remains on injured reserve with a rib injury.