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Friday, March 9, 2012
Lehtonen, Vincour shine as Stars extend division lead

By Mark Stepneski



DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars just keep racking up the points. The Stars ran their winning streak to four games and their points streak to nine (8-0-1) with a thrilling 4-3 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center Thursday night.

The Pacific Division leading Stars increased their lead over second place Phoenix to three points and to four points over the third place Sharks. The Stars have a five point lead over Los Angeles, which is fourth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the Western Conference.

“I thought we played real gutsy,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We played hard. It’s not easy coming back off a road swing and getting that type of performance, but Kari Lehtonen certainly gave us an opportunity to stay in this game long enough to get two points.”

The Stars twice overcame deficits in the third period and did it while playing with just four defensemen. Sheldon Souray (lower body) and Mark Fistric (hand) both left the game and did not return. Stars forward Steve Ott was a late scratch with back spasms.

The Stars got another big game from Lehtonen, who made 45 saves and stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout.

“It was a perfect game to get a lot of shots after getting three-four days rest,” Lehtonen said. “It seemed to be a perfect fit that Bachs (Richard Bachman) played the Vancouver game. I was really fresh. I think that helped.”

Tomas Vincour scored the game-tying goal with 1:15 left in regulation and then scored the only goal of the shootout.

“It feels great. It’s a huge two points for us,” Vincour said. “It doesn’t matter who scores the goal, now is the time to be getting two points every night. Every goal is huge for us and I am glad that I could score a goal but, like I said, it doesn’t matter who scores the goal.”

Lehtonen stopped 16 of 16 shots in the first period and the Stars were able to grab the lead at 12:16 of the second period. Just moments after Lehtonen made a sharp pad save on San Jose’s Ryane Clowe, Stars forward Michael Ryder broke in on net at the other end to beat San Jose goalie Antti Niemi.

The Sharks tied the game with the less than a second remaining in the second period on a goal by Torrey Mitchell and then took the lead just 25 seconds into the third on a goal by Patrick Marleau.

“You never want to give up late goals, but you’ve got to shrug those off pretty quick and get back at it,” said Stars forward Jamie Benn.

Benn tied the game at the 6:42 mark of the third, leading a rush from deep in the Dallas end and then taking a pass from Adam Burish at the other end and beating San Jose from close range.

San Jose took a 3-2 lead with 3:32 remaining when Joe Pavelski banged home the rebound of a Dan Boyle shot.

But with Lehtonen pulled for the extra attacker, the Stars scored with 1:15 remaining as Vincour scored off a scramble in front of the San Jose net.

The Stars’ penalty kill came up big in overtime, stopping a San Jose power play.

In the shootout, Lehtonen stopped all five San Jose shooters and Vincour beat Niemi with a backhand shot for the lone goal.

"I knew what I wanted to do before I went out there,” said Vincour. I just went on the ice and knew that I was going to go backhand."

For San Jose, it was another tough loss. The Sharks fell to 2-7-3 over their last 12 games.

“Yeah, same old story. Good games don’t count at this time of year, it’s putting up points,” said Clowe. “I know we got a point, but we had the lead twice in the third and didn’t hold onto it. You either do it or you don’t play after the regular season.”

Notes

*The Stars are 8-1-2 over their last 11 games.

*Stars forward Michael Ryder extended his points streak to eight games (6 goals, 3 assists).

*Jake Dowell returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a broken finger.

*Adam Pardy and Toby Petersen were healthy scratches for the Stars.

*Thursday’s attendance was 16,812