The Dallas Stars continue to roll along and so does goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The Dallas netminder stopped 25 shots for his second straight shutout and his third in his last nine starts as the Stars ran their winning streak to six games and their points streak to 11 games (10-0-1).
“The last month he’s brought his game to a new level,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Yeah, the shutout, but just how clean he was with the rebound control I think is what was most impressive. He’s given the guys the belief that he’s not going to let any in.”
Over his last nine starts Lehtonen is 8-0-1 with a 1.29 goals against average, .955 save percentage and three shutouts.
“He stops every puck pretty much,” said Stars forward Jamie Benn, who scored the game’s only goal. “The guy is a workhorse. He is unbelievable back there and, once again, he showed it tonight.”
Lehtonen wasn’t tested often, but he came up with some key stops, making saves on Erik Christensen and Kyle Brodziak’s rebound attempt in the second period. And then with 3.2 seconds left in the game he denied Brodziak’s bid to tie the game with a point blank shot.
“One heck of a save,” said Gulutzan. “The only thing I didn’t like about it was he looked behind him, but he had it squeezed in there tight. But that gives a coach a heart attack. That’s just the kind of goaltending we’ve been getting from Kari.”
Lehtonen is currently on a 128:32 shutout streak.
“We played really solid, especially five-on-five,” said Lehtonen. ”They got a couple of chances on the power play. It was just good to get the win and just enough goals for us.”
The lone goal of the game at 3:46 of the third period and just after the Stars killed off Minnesota’s fourth power play of the game. With Dallas on the rush, a Brenden Morrow pass deflected off a Minnesota stick and right onto the stick of Benn, who roofed a shot over Wild goalie Matt Hackett.
“It deflected off something there and I tried to get it to the net as fast as I could,” Benn said. “It came off my stick pretty hot there.”
And the goal kept the Stars hot. The six-game winning streak is one short of the franchise mark of seven. It also was their sixth straight win on the road. They upped their lead in the Pacific Division to four points and increased their lead over ninth place in the Western Conference to five points.
The win wasn’t a Picasso, as the saying goes, but it was two points and in the West, where teams chasing the Stars keep picking up points, they were two key points.
“In the end we got two points and that’s what we came here for,” said Benn. “We’re not trying to make it pretty out there. We’re just trying to keep it ugly, play a simple game and that’s why we are successful right now.”
*The Stars were 4-4 on the penalty kill in the game. They are 34-35 (97.1%) on the PK over their last 11 games.
*Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray (lower body) and right wing Radek Dvorak (ankle) missed Tuesday’s game.
*Toby Petersen, Jake Dowell and Jordie Benn were healthy scratches for Dallas.
*Stars forward Michael Ryder had his nine-game points streak snapped.
*The back-to-back shutouts by Kari Lehtonen were the first for the Stars since December 2006, when Marty Turco shutout San Jose and Phoenix in consecutive games.