Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Dallas Starts Road Trip in Ideal Fashion

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The Dallas Stars could not have hoped for a better start to their three-game western Canada road trip. The Stars defeated the Vancouver Canucks to earn their third win in their last four games. Even more importantly, the bottom-ranked defensive team in the NHL showed greatly improved team defense and got shutout goaltending from Kari Lehtonen in the 2-0 victory.

The Big Finn has had an erratic season. While the team in front of him has been largely responsible for the club entering last night with an NHL-worst 3.50 goals against per game, Lehtonen had also been yielding more than his share of stoppable goals. Last night, he earned his second shutout of the season, stopping all 27 shots fired on his net.

For Dallas, it was also encouraging to see the club get a win on a night in which Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza were held off the scoreboard. The supporting cast scratched out just enough offense to win a low-scoring game.

Dallas’ second goal, scored by Antoine Roussel, was an empty netter scored in the final half-minute of the period. The game was scoreless for nearly the first 23 minutes before Colton Sceviour gave the Stars a 1-0 lead.

On a three-on-two rush, Sceviour’s left circle backhander went off the heel of Vancouver goaltender Eddie Läck’s glove and into the net. The goal, Sceviour’s second of the season, was assisted by Shawn Horcoff and Vernon Fiddler.

Thereafter, Läck (27 saves on 28 shots) matched Lehtonen save for save. On this night, however, one mistake was enough to the undoing for the recently struggling Canucks. Vancouver is now winless in five in a row (0-4-1). Among the problems is an 0-for-18 drought on the power play. Dallas went 4-for-4 on penalty kills last night.

With the victory, the Stars have beaten the Canucks each of the last six times the clubs have clashed. Dallas returns to action on Friday night in Calgary. Prior to the start of the road trip, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas media that recently recalled backup goaltender Anders Lindbäck would get a start during the trip. Friday’s game would seem to be the one.

On Sunday, the Stars have a twilight/early evening game in Edmonton, starting 5:00 p.m. CST.

The pre-Christmas break portion of the Stars schedule ends on Tuesday with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the American Airlines Center. After a three-night break from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day, the Stars are on the road to take on the St. Louis Blues.