The Dallas Stars wanted to start the long road to the playoffs on the right foot after the All Star game break. Four points out of the final playoff spot but with games in hand on everyone in front of the them the Stars are poised to make a move up the standings. There's no better way to start things off than a decisive shutout victory against an uninterested Atlanta Thrashers.
The Stars immediately put the pressure on Atlanta by jumping on turnovers and a lackadaisical defensive approach by the Thrashers' forwards. This left plenty of room inside the blue line for the Stars to work the puck and generate plenty of scoring chances.
Jere Lehtinen put the Stars up for good just 3:48 into the first period when Mike Ribeiro shot a puck off Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen and the rebound bounced off Lehtinen and into the net. The scoring play was made possible by a great steal by Steve Ott at the blue line that sent the Stars right back into the zone past a Thrashers team that had already moved down ice.
Steve Ott continued his hot streak when he scored 28 seconds into the second period on a delayed penalty off another great pass from Ribeiro.
The Stars would have been up at least 4-0 if it weren't for Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen who made several spectacular saves to keep the game close. The Stars were moving the puck with ease and had several seemingly easy, open net goals but were thwarted by Lehtonen multiple times in the first and second period. While he was fighting to keep his team in the game, Atlanta managed just 12 shots through two periods.
The Thrashers woke up in the third period and put 13 shots on net. Marty Turco, perhaps determined not to be outdone by Lehtonen, put together a brilliant third period to preserve the shutout. His best came on a point blank save on Ilya Kovalchuk when he stoned the Atlanta captain off pass from behind the net, something Turco has had trouble with all season. When Atlanta put the heat on in the final minute Turco was unflappable, making several saves in the final seconds to get his second shutout of the season.
It was a solid, consistent effort overall by the Stars who put easily took over a game against a struggling opponent. This is what a good team fighting for playoff position should do and it's a great way to start the second half of the season. However, if the Stars plan on making a serious run they need to start taking advantage of opportunities to put teams away early. The Stars failed to score on a lengthy power play in the first period, including a minute and a half of a five on three, and missed several chances in the second period. The Stars are generating chances and moving the puck well yet aren't able to finish the play when it's available. The Stars need to find some way, any way to correct this issue if they plan on making any splash in the playoff race.
Notes and highlights after the jump.
>Dallas is 2 for 16 in five on three situations this year, including 0 for 1 against Atlanta.
>In his last ten games, Marty Turco has a 2.40 GAA and two shutouts. The Stars are 5-3-2 in that span.
BW's three stars of the game:
Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta: Had 31 saves with at least five of the spectacular variety. Kept his team in the game on a night when other teams easily lose 5-0.
Steve Ott, Dallas: A goal and an assist and continued his strong play of late. Had several steals, including one early that set up the game winning goal.
Marty Turco, Dallas: 25 saves en route to his second shutout of the season. Was calm and in control and made several big saves in tight. One of his best games of the season.
Next game: Dallas Stars @ Detroit Red Wings; Thursdar, January 27 6:30 PM CST