On Thursday, the Stars gave their netminder some much-needed
breathing room, scoring twice early in the first period during a 4-1
win over the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.
Despite struggling in his previous eight starts, Lehtonen looked
like his old self against the Canucks, stopping 27 of 28 shots to
earn his 13th win of the season. His biggest save came 1:17 into the
second period when he robbed right winger Jannik Hansen with a glove
save at the left post that would have tied the game with Vancouver
on the power play.
"After some tough going, he got some big, timely saves," Stars coach
Lindy Ruff said. "Kari was real good. He made a couple of
short-handed saves that could have turned the momentum. And the one
glove save in the second, he got a save at the right time, and it
was a big one."
Lehtonen was 2-3-3 with a 3.40 goals-against average and a .903 save
percentage in his previous eight starts.
"I've had a rough go the last couple of weeks, so it's nice to have
a good game," Lehtonen said. "That made me more relaxed."
Dallas (17-12-5) got a three-point night from left winger Erik Cole
and two assists each from centers Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin.
It was a game the Stars never trailed, taking the lead when center
Jamie Benn scored 4:34 in with a wrist shot from the left faceoff
circle that beat Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo top shelf. The
goal was Benn's 10th of the season.
Fifteen seconds later, Dallas rookie center Colton Sceviour scored
his third in four games, knocking in a pass from Peverley at the far
post to make it 2-0.
"Yeah, we got caught on a bad change, causes one (goal)," Canucks
coach John Tortorella said of trailing 2-0 early. "And (left winger)
Tommy Sestito thinks it's a three-on-two, really he should have
stayed with his guy, the one (Sceviour) who taps it in."
Three minutes after Sceviour's goal, Vancouver (20-11-6) got on the
board, making it a 2-1 game at 7:38 when left winger Chris Higgins
took Lehtonen top shelf on the short side with a wrister from the
Peverley also had a near-miss at 5:31 of the second when his wrister
from the left circle rang off the far post.
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Dallas made it 3-1 when Cole scored his sixth of the year
from the left faceoff circle on a shot that seemed to go through
Luongo. Cole's shot struck Luongo in the midsection before
trickling between his legs and over the line.
"I'm not sure (what happened)," Luongo said. "I think it might
have fallen between my legs or something and just trickled in,
something along those lines. But whatever it is, it's
inexcusable at that point in the game."
The Stars also looked as if they had a fourth goal from center
Cody Eakin 22 seconds before the second intermission. However,
Eakin's tally was waved off when Dallas left winger Ryan Garbutt
was called for interference on Canucks defenseman Dam Hamhuis in
the high slot.
Dallas went ahead 4-1 early in the third when rookie right
winger Valeri Nichushkin scored his sixth 2:23 into the final
frame after a great no-look pass from Cole. That goal chased
Luongo from the game, and backup Eddie Lack entered.
Luongo stopped 15 of 19 shots before exiting. Lack stopped all
seven shots he faced.
The Stars won consecutive games for the first time since winning
three in a row between Nov. 13 and 17.
"We're trying to treat our home fans to a merry Christmas," Ruff
said. "The energy in the building has been getting better and
NOTES: C Jeremy Welsh was the lone scratch for the Canucks. D
Ryan Stanton returned to Vancouver on Wednesday after suffering
a lower-body injury in Tuesday night's shootout loss at the
Minnesota Wild. ... Stars D Maxime Fortunus, who cleared waivers
earlier in the day, C Dustin Jeffrey and D Aaron Rome were
scratched by Dallas. ... The goal by Dallas C Jamie Benn early
in the first period was his third in four games. ... Canucks
assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, who coached the Stars the last
two seasons before being fired in May, returned to Dallas for
the first time since his dismissal. ... Stars C Rich Peverley
assisted on Dallas' second and third goals of the game for his
third two-assist game of the season. ... Canucks G Roberto
Luongo started his fourth consecutive game. ... The announced
attendance was 15,644.
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