DALLAS (AP) – Kari Lehtonen credits one save in the second period with making his 100th victory with the Dallas Stars possible.
Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour scored goals 15 seconds apart in the first period Thursday night, leading the Dallas Stars to a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“It was just one of those things at the right time. Sometimes you make a good save, sometimes you don’t. That one gave me a lot of confidence,” Lehtonen said. “It was a 2-1 at the time, and everything took off from there.”
Barely a minute into the second, Lehtonen stopped Jannik Hansen with a glove save.
“The defining moment in the game was that save he made in the second,” teammate Rich Peverley said. “It could have been a 2-2 game right there.”
Vancouver (20-11-6) lost on the road for the second time in three nights following a seven-game winning streak. They had earned at least a point in eight consecutive games.
The Stars won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak Nov. 13-17.
They also have won both games against the Canucks, with Lehtonen allowing only one goal in each game.
Dallas (17-12-5) started fast, taking six of the first seven shots on goal, including Benn’s goal at 4:34 and Sceviour’s third in four NHL games this season at 4:49.
Erik Cole had a goal and two assists, and Tyler Seguin and Peverley added two assists apiece for Dallas.
But it was Lehtonen who made the biggest plays.
He stopped short-range shots by Hansen on a 2-on-1 short-handed rush and by Brad Richardson 2 seconds after Ryan Kesler’s penalty expired midway through the first period.
Canucks coach John Tortorella also noted the importance of Lehtonen’s saves.
“Lehtonen made some great saves at key times. We’ve seen that before against him. Yeah, we couldn’t score and the third one hurt us.”
Cole scored Dallas’ third goal at 16:56 of the second. His shot trickled past goalie Roberto Luongo’s right side and across the goal line.
“It was a wrister,” Luongo said. “I think it might have fallen between my legs or something. But whatever it is, it’s inexcusable at that point in the game.”
In the third period, Cole’s backhand pass set up Valeri Nichushkin in the right faceoff circle, and his shot beat Luongo.
“(Cole) put the puck on the net and somehow got a goal,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “And he made a heck of a play on Val’s goal. (Cole) is a big man, and he’s hard to control.”
Tortorella then replaced the goalie with Eddie Lack. Luongo stopped just 15 of 19 shots.
Lehtonen made 26 saves and allowed only one goal, to Chris Higgins at 7:38 of the first. Dallas’ goalie had allowed 10 goals during his previous two starts and 23 in compiling a 2-3-1 record over the last six.
“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.”
Ruff said, “He got some big, timely saves.”
Lehtonen said of his 100th win, “I didn’t know about it until just after the game when they announced it. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot more.”
Vancouver’s second shot of the game was Higgins’ goal from the right faceoff circle.
The Stars had the game’s first power play midway through the period, but the Canucks had the best scoring chances, by Hansen and Richardson.
Dallas finally broke through for a 3-1 lead on Cole’s goal.
Cody Eakin beat Luongo with a shot 22 seconds before the period ended, but the goal was waved off
because of an interference penalty against the Stars’ Ryan Garbutt.
“I think we started really well. We were generating much of the offense,” Lehtonen said. “They bounced back in the second period.”
But the Canucks failed to score in the second despite a 13-5 advantage in shots.
“We knew they were going to come out with a push in the second,” Ruff said. “I think in the last 10 minutes of the period, we got back on our game.”
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