Saturday, February 4, 2012
Kari Lehtonen shines as Stars down Wild in shootout
By Mark Stepneski
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars honored former goaltender Ed Belfour for his Hall of Fame induction Saturday night, and then current Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen put on a show of his own in leading Dallas to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center.
Lehtonen stopped 33 of 34 shots in regulation and overtime and then two of three in the shootout for the Stars, who have won three of their last four games.
"(Belfour) was one of those goalies that I used to look up to when I was a little kid and I was fortunate enough to play against him a couple of times," Lehtonen said. "He's one of my heroes and it was nice to see him out there and get recognition. It was a good way to start the game.”
Lehtonen has won his last three starts, allowing just three goals and stopping 93 of 96 shots.
“It was a nice, tight game. They got a few chances, I made some saves and was lucky a couple times,” Lehtonen said. “I think our penalty kill was really good, too. That helped us. Overall, it was a fun game for me, lots of shots and two points at the end.”
The shootout victory, in which the eighth place Wild received one point, pulled the Stars to within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We would have liked to picked up two points on them, but we closed the gap and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “There’s a lot of hockey left.”
Mike Ribeiro scored on the power play in regulation and Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn tallied in the shootout for the Stars.
The Stars got a big performance from their special teams. The penalty kill was 4-4, including a stop on Minnesota power play that started late in regulation and carried over into the overtime.
“Our PK was really big,” said Gulutzan. “I thought we did a really good job.”
The power play scored for the third straight game and provided the Stars’ only goal. That came when Mike Ribeiro scored off a rebound in the second period.
“We’ve just simplified a little bit. We’re not trying to make those nice plays,” said Ribeiro. “We just simplified. Bring the puck to the point, get shots through and converge to the net and get those rebounds.”
The Stars had some issues early in the game as turnovers led to some quality chances for the Wild. Lehtonen came up with two big stops on Minnesota’s Dany Heatley in the first period.
It was a turnover in the third period that led to Minnesota’s only goal. After an errant pass by Stars forward Jake Dowell, Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak cashed in on a point blank chance to tie the game at 1-1.
In the shootout, Eriksson scored off a backhand shot against Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and Benn scored off a wrist shot. Lehtonen stopped Erik Christensen, surrendered a goal to Matt Cullen and then stopped Jared Spurgeon to secure the victory.
While it was a big win for the Stars, Gulutzan saw a need for an improvement as the Stars move forward down the stretch drive.
“We relied on our goalie a lot. We have to be better,” Gulutzan said. “I’m ecstatic about the two points and it’s going to help us, but we have a different level we need to get to.”
*The Stars improved to 4-2 in shootouts this season.
*The Stars are now 15-0-0 when leading after two periods this season.
*The Stars are 3-7 (42.9%) on the power play since the All-Star break.
*Mark Fistric, Adam Pardy and Toby Petersen were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*Saturday’s attendance was 18.532, which is a sellout.