Kari Lehtonen shines as Stars open road stretch with win

The Dallas Stars opened a stretch of four straight games on the road with a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena Tuesday night.

The Stars were outshot 40-18, but Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves and Steve Ott, Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder provided the goals as the Stars (5-1-0) ran their winning streak to four games and won their first road game of the season (1-1-0).

Lehtonen improved to 5-0-0 on the season. He has a 1.58 goals against average and a .953 save percentage.

"If Kari was a baseball player he would probably be Nelson Cruz right now,” said Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray. “He's really making all the difference in the games right now. We've done some good things. We've put some periods together, some stretches, but we've had some where we've sat back and let them take a lot of shots. When we have he's made the saves and been the difference for us."

Lehtonen was key in the first period, when the winless Blue Jackets (0-5-1) made a strong push and then again late in the second when Columbus had some extended zone time and quality chances.

“When things are going well it’s fun and it’s nice to play,” said Lehtonen. “I don’t want to say it’s easier, but sometimes you get lucky when things are going well. I just have to keep working and hope it stays the same way.”

The Stars weathered the hard charging Blue Jackets through a scoreless first and took the lead early in the second on a goal by Ott, who beat Columbus goalie Steve Mason with a shot from the top of the right circle off the rush at the 4:17 mark.

“Our first period was good,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I thought for a road game with them having a lot of energy, we were good for the first 30 minutes.”

The Stars’ PK came up big in the middle of the period, killing off back-to-back Columbus power plays, including a 31 second five-on-three chance.

After weathering another Columbus flurry late in the second, the Stars took a 2-0 lead on a highlight reel goal by Benn, who got the puck near the Columbus blue line, beat four Blue Jacket defenders and roofed a shot over Mason from close range at the 1:31 mark.

“He can get the puck away from guys and that’s what he did,” said Gulutzan. “Then he can make quick plays on improv. He’s a lethal scorer that way.”

The Blue Jackets cut the lead to 2-1 on a power play goal by Derick Brassard, who scored on the rebound of a Rick Nash shot, but the Stars answered 1:11 later when Ryder tipped home a shot by Souray from the left point.

Columbus defenseman Kris Russell made it a 3-2 game with 2:55 remaining but the Blue Jackets couldn’t get the equalizer and the Stars held on for their fifth win in six games to open the season.

"[The 5-1-0 start] is huge. It's a lot better than starting off slowly,” said Lehtonen. “It's really hard to get those wins back. It's important to get them early and hopefully we can play solid from here on out."


*Eric Nystrom, acquired last week from Minnesota, made his Stars debut Tuesday. Nystrom, who skated on the fourth line with Jake Dowell and Tom Wandell, played 8:11, had one shot on goal and two hits.

*Toby Petersen, Krys Barch and Mark Fistric were the healthy scratches for the Stars Tuesday night.