DALLAS – A hot start wound up being just enough for the Stars to get another hard-earned victory.
Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves, and Dallas hung on after scoring the first three goals of the game for a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
Unlike Monday’s shootout win over Phoenix when they were sluggish at the start, the Stars got out of the gate quickly against the Blues, and took a 3-0 lead after Brenden Morrow scored on the power play with 5:39 left in the second period. But that’s when St. Louis started to get a little jump in their collective step, and began to take the territorial advantage away from Dallas.
St. Louis wound up outshooting outshot the Stars by a 26-12 margin over the final two periods, and were in position to possibly tie the game up when they went on the power play with 1:04 left in regulation after Loui Eriksson was called for tripping.
But despite being armed with an extra attacker after pulling goalie Jaroslav Halak to make it a 6-on-4 advantage, the Blues were unable to get a prime scoring chance thanks to Dallas’ penalty-killing unit that erased all five of St. Louis’ man-advantage opportunities.
“We knew they were going to come with that in the third,” Morrow said. “We had that 3-0 lead, they got a big goal, and we knew they had some momentum. That’s the way the game goes. Kari made some big saves, the penalty kill came up big, and we got the two points.”
Eriksson scored a shorthanded goal in the first period, and Adam Burish also tallied for Dallas, which won its second straight and third in the first four games (3-1-0). Last season, the Stars defeated the Blues 3-2 in the fourth game of the 2010-11 campaign to improve to 4-0.
“Early in the year if you can gather some points, especially at home, when teams are still trying to figure themselves out, it helps,” Burish said. “To be honest, we probably weren’t great tonight. We had about 30 good minutes. You’re excited to get the points, but overall we would have liked to play a little bit better.”
Lehtonen once again was magnificent, spitting puck after puck out at every turn. He’s now stopped 113 of 117 shots for an eye-popping .966 save percentage in his first three starts.
It was the fourth straight game that Dallas has allowed 30 or more shots on goal.
“We have a lot of work to do before our goalie gets too tired,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It seems like we change the way we play, whether if we get up or down, we’ll change the way we’re approaching the game. Good teams don’t do that, they just play the same way for 60 minutes. We’re not there yet. I thought we played 25-30 pretty good minutes.”
Matt D’Agostini and Chris Stewart scored, and Halak made 21 saves for the Blues, who lost for the second time in their last three games.
“We played a great first half of the game, and after that we got the big lead,” Lehtonen said. “We have to learn how to play with that.”
Down by a pair of goals after two periods, the Blues closed the deficit to 3-2 on Stewart’s goal just under four minutes into the third. From the right point, his slap shot eluded a screened Lehtonen.
But Lehtonen shut the door after that.
“He’s been spectacular,” Gulutzan said. “He’s won single-handedly two games here for sure.”
The Stars added to their 1-0 first-period lead when Burish notched his first of the season at 7:06 of the second period to make it 2-0. Off the rush, Trevor Daley penetrated the Blues zone in the middle of the ice before sliding a pass to Burish in the left circle. Burish promptly whipped the puck in from the left faceoff dot.
Morrow then made it 3-0 with his power-play tally in the second period. Mike Ribeiro’s shot from the right point was redirected in the high slot by Stephane Robidas to Morrow in the lower slot. Morrow then shoveled it in past Halak.
“It’s been pretty sloppy, especially at home,” Morrow said about a power-play unit that had converted on just one of 14 opportunities coming in. “We’ve had a tough time getting pucks into the zone.”
“It’s gonna come,” Gulutzan said. “We’re a work in progress. The team truly needs to believe that they’re a good team.”
D’Agostini, though, closed the gap to 3-1 with a goal just 20 seconds after Morrow scored. From the inner edge of the right circle his shot and rebound attempt were both blocked by Lehtonen, but D’Agostino’s third straight attempt finally went in off Daley.
Dallas struck first when Eriksson scored his second of the year with just 70 seconds left in the opening frame and while the Stars were shorthanded. From the left circle, Steve Ott whacked the puck off the boards, and it deflected off St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo at the right point and out in the neutral zone. Eriksson collected the loose puck to go in alone on Halak, and he deftly slipped the puck between the netminder’s legs with a slick backhand.
“We have to do a much better job as a group,” Eriksson said. “It’s nice, though, to get the two points.”
The Stars will conclude their three-game homestand on Saturday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TXA-21). The Blue Jackets are still in search of their first win of the season after a 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado on Wednesday dropped their record 0-3-1 -- the worst start in the team’s 11 seasons.
-- Defenseman Sheldon Souray got into a second-period scrap with Stewart. Souray landed one punch before wrestling Stewart to the ice.
-- Dallas finished 1 of 5 on the power play.
-- Through the first four games the Stars have killed off all but two of 23 opposition power-play opportunities.
-- The second period ended in a melee with all 10 skaters involved in a scrum inside the Dallas zone. Three roughing minors were handed out, including two to Dallas (Burish and Mark Fistric) which gave the Blues the power play to start the third period.
-- Dallas won all four meetings between these two teams last year.
-- Lehtonen improved to 7-1-0 in eight career starts against the Blues.
-- Dallas hasn’t allowed St. Louis to score more than two goals in the last six meetings.
-- Ribeiro is now one point shy of 500 career NHL points.