Kari finally got it. It was long overdue and at times it felt like he'd never get one. He maybe wasn't worked as hard compared to other attempts where he had done a lot more work in goal without being properly rewarded, but after 14 shots against and 14 saves made Kari Lehtonen finally has his first shutout as a member of the Dallas Stars and his first career shutout since 2009.
Overall it was a muck and grind type game with the Minnesota Wild coming off a loss the previous night and coming into AAC with a gameplan to lull the Stars (and their fans) to sleep. Thankfully Jamie Benn is immune to such tactics and scored in the first period off a beautiful rush down the ice and putting a laser-like backhand behind Wild goalie Jose Theodore.
The Wild again tried their best to slow the game to a snails pace in the second period and even when they had the puck for a length of time in the Stars zone, they barely managed decent scoring chances let alone shots on goal. I feel as though this can be explained in two ways, one: it is the Minnesota Wild and two: the Stars as a group defensively were very good all night with puck support, back checking and limiting the Wild forwards to one-and-done type opertunities when they did manage to get shots on goal.
With the defensive game in check, the Stars cranked up volume on offense in the span of one minute and 31 seconds. Trevor Daley scored after his centering feed bounced off the stick of Kyle Brodziak and past Theodore for the 2-0 lead. One minute and 13 seconds later, Tom Wandell - who many have taken note has started shooting the puck a lot more from many different angles - scored on a wrister that seemed more like a changeup (to use a baseball term) to put the Stars up by three and then 18 seconds after that goal Mike Ribeiro put the final nail in by slamming home a loose puck in the slot after a horrible looking turnover from the Wild behind their own net.
From there, a tired and looking beaten Wild club did little to force any kind of issue in the third period and the Stars made sure to play a nice mix of lock down defense while still pressuring with the forward to at least generate some scoring chances to at least keep the Wild from 'pinning their ears back' and going for broke so to speak.
A big two points as it helps vault the Stars back into fourth place by themselves in the west (who knows how long that will last of course) and the fairly 'relaxed' manner in which they won - or the way they made it look easy anyway - should go a long way in helping the Stars prepare for a big divisional game on Sunday afternoon versus the Kings.
- Special teams wise was a little bit of a mixed bag. The Stars power play was 0 for 4 but did look good at times and overall generated five shots with the man advantage. The penalty kill was a perfect 3 for 3 and limited the Wild to one measly shot against.
- We're going streaking! Ribiero now has a three game goal scoring streak which is impressive until you see Benn's six game goal scoring streak. The Stars record by the way is 10 set by Brian Bellows in the 1989-90 season.
- Is it a coincidence that Grossman makes his return to the Stars blueline and they pick up a shutout? I don't think you could convince me that it's not. He gives the Stars size and strength that no other player on their roster with the exception of Mark Fistric (who was a healthy scratch tonight) perhaps can give and on top of that he has great hockey smarts and more often than not makes the right play when he has the puck.
- Adam Burish didn't play in the third period... Probably more of a precaution taken by the coaching staff to save his body. Lets face it, even in a 4-0 game, Burish would still be out there grinding and diving to block shots because that's th kind of player he is. Smart move by the coaches to pull him out (wonder if they had to tie him down to make sure he didn't sneak on the ice) and get him some needed rest.
- Other Stars with points tonight: Jamie Langenbrunner had two assists, Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson and Grossman all had solo assists. Ribiero added an assist to his goal as well.
1 - Kari Lehtonen (DAL)