Stars first goal Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com
(ISN) – VANCOUVER — Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen has struggled with his confidence at times this season, but the Vancouver Canucks helped him find it early in their game Wednesday.
Lehtonen made 11 of his 27 saves in the first period and Colton Sceviour scored early in the second to lead the Stars to a 2-0 win against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Lehtonen came in ranked 38th in the NHL with a .902 save percentage, well below his .914 career average, and had given up 34 goals in his previous 10 starts. But he was brilliant with the Canucks buzzing early, stopping two breakaways in the second period and making 12 saves in the third for his second shutout of the season.
Jamie Benn Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com
“That’s’ always huge when you are able to make a great first save,” said Lehtonen, who made a glove save to rob Radim Vrbata 36 seconds in. “That gave me lots of confidence and that carried later on in the game. It was nice to be able to make good saves in the first when we were not playing great and then after that I think we played really well and dominated the second period. It was a nice road win.”
Antoine Roussel scored an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left for the Stars, who have won three of their past four games.
Dallas (12-13-5) has won six straight games against Vancouver.
“That first period we could have come out in a hole and a tough spot,” Sceviour said. “[Lehtonen] made some huge saves early on. That’s something we were able to rally behind between the first and second.”
The Stars, who have the NHL’s worst goals-against average, spent three straight practice days last week focused on improving their defensive play. But for the most part Wednesday, they leaned on Lehtonen, especially when they were outshot 11-5 in the first period.
Canucks Can’t Beat Lehtonen Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com
After he robbed Vrbata in the game’s first minute, Lehtonen denied Chris Higgins from the slot and turned aside a great Linden Vey chance in the opening six minutes. He later got a blocker on Higgins’ shot on a shorthanded 2-on-0 break.
“Those things happen so fast and I try to be patient and see what they do, and I was able to get a move sideways and get a blocker on the puck,” Lehtonen said of the save on Higgins. “At that point I was feeling really confident and good, and it was lots of fun after that.”
Lehtonen threw out the right pad to turn away a Daniel Sedin redirect with Vancouver on the power play late in the first period, and Dallas regrouped in intermission.
“We had a good chat in the locker room,” Lehtonen said. “We gave them too much odd-man rushes and breakaways. We had a good kill at the start of the second. I don’t know what the guys did, but they started playing really well and made it easier for me.”
Lehtonen made another good save with the glove against Jannik Hansen when the Canucks forward came in alone after stripping the puck from Stars rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka at the blue line 2:44 into the second period.
Dallas opened the scoring on a bad goal nine seconds later and controlled play the rest of the period.
Sceviour threw a backhand at the net from a sharp angle after cutting in off the left wing, and Eddie Lack, reaching down to scoop the puck off the ice, instead had it bounce into the net off the edge of his glove.
“We were controlling the first and beginning of the second, and I gave them momentum and it’s a weak goal, what else can I say?” said Lack, who made 27 saves in a surprise start ahead of Ryan Miller.
Big Benn Fights For Position Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com
Lack felt he played well after that goal, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Vancouver (18-11-2) from losing its fifth straight game (0-4-1).
“But it’s tough when you don’t win,” Lack said. “I tried to redeem myself after that goal, made a couple great saves, but he played better on the other side and you’ve got to give him credit.”
It was Sceviour’s second goal of the season. He has three points in the past five games, matching his total from the first 22 games of the season.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to have a ridiculously high shooting percentage,” Sceviour said. “You get the puck to the net and good things happen at times. I was fortunate.”
The Stars’ Tyler Seguin, who leads the NHL in goals (23) and points (38), hit the crossbar behind Lack at the end of a first-period power play. He was held without a point for the first time in five games.
NHL Leading Goal Scorer Held Off The Scoresheet Tonight Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com
For all the focus on the Stars’ scoring ability, Dallas coach Lindy Ruff was more impressed with the job they did defending, at least after Lehtonen bailed them out in the first period.
“He gave us a fighting chance in the first period to win a hockey game, and the second period we answered the bell by going after them pretty good,” Ruff said. “We’ve been working hard playing defense in the offensive zone, controlling the puck and zone time. We did a lot better job of that. We had some shifts that we totally finished in the offensive zone.
“There was a lot of good things, a lot of good shot blocks, and the defending in the last 40 minutes was pretty good.”
After dominating the first period, Vancouver managed four shots in the second, but Lehtonen still had to turn aside Alexandre Burrows on a clear-cut breakaway in the final minute of the period.
The Canucks had 12 shots in the third period, but they couldn’t beat Lehtonen and fell to 0-4-1 in their past five.
“If we played better in the second we probably would have found a goal tonight, but they kind of took it to us in the second and spent a lot of time in our end,” Higgins said. “Things aren’t going well for the team, that’s when your individual opportunities hurt and I had chance to help the team tonight and they didn’t go in. I’ve got to score.”
Vancouver was 0-for-4 on the power play and has not scored on the man advantage in six games.
“We got to at least get the momentum on our power play,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “That didn’t happen in the second. I think that’s what turned the momentum around for them.”
Lehtonen played a big part in it too.
Jamie Benn Applauds His Goalie Photo Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com