All hail Kari Lehtonen, without whom the Dallas Stars would have never even had a chance on Sunday night.
The Los Angeles Kings set the tone early with a fluky goal by Jeff Carter just 25 seconds into the first period, when a knuckling backhand founds its way over the shoulder of Lehtonen -- who seemed to have never seen the puck. The Stars goaltender would stand tall after that, however, stopping 30 shots through two periods as the Kings completely controlled the flow of play for much of the game.
The Stars were plagued by poor passing throughout the game, unable to create any sort of extended forecheck and never able to string two passes together in order to put up some sort of sustained offensive attack.
A laserbeam of a pass from Alex Goligoski would spring Jamie Benn, however, and the Stars' big center buried a deft backhand under Jonathan Bernier to inexplicably tie the game in the second period.
Lazy passing would be the Stars' undoing, however, as a lazy pass in their own zone led to the go-ahead goal by the Kings, with Brad Richardson lifting a shot over Kari Lehtonen to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead early int he third period. Just over a minute later, Justin Williams' rebound goal would apparently put the game away for good.
This game was all about missed opportunities by the Stars, who had several chances in tight without ever getting a shot on goal, and egregious turnovers that directly led to some bad goals against. This was very similar to the last game between these two teams, where the Stars stole a 2-0 game on the back of a career performance by Lehtonen.
This was a game where the Kings looked very much like one of the best teams in the NHL, while the Stars appeared to very much be a team on the bubble while searching for direction. The passing was just part of the problem, as the Stars continuously struggled with getting the puck cleanly out of the zone.
To the Stars credit, there was a concerted and passionate effort after the Kings scored to go up 3-1. A hard working shift in the offensive zone led to a power play goal by Ray Whitney, and play was almost exclusively in the Kings' zone for the latter half of the third period. Too many mistakes proved too tough to overcome, however, as the Stars were unable to connect on several big chances in the final minutes of the game.
We'll have more on this game tomorrow but in the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Easter Sunday.