Moments like what occurred last night in Los Angeles don't come along often, when a goaltender makes a save so incredibly amazing that the entire hockey world almost comes to complete stop to share their admiration and amazement.
What Kari Lehtonen was able to do last night, with the Dallas Stars leading 2-0 over the Los Angeles Kings, was one of the most spectacular saves you're ever going to witness and one that may wind up as the best save of Lehtonen's career.
This save had everything -- timing, athleticism, luck and unbelievable concentration. The Stars were leading 2-0 but the Kings had started to gain a little steam after a big hit on Jamie Oleksiak, and this shot by Jarret Stoll came at the end of a flurry of chances for L.A. Allowing a goal here would have given the Kings all sorts of momentum and considering the state of the Stars the past few weeks, there's no telling how the game might have gone from there.
Instead, Lehtonen lays out and flat-out robs Stoll with what will undoubtedly be a save you'll see at the top of all highlight reels for some time to come. What we're going to show you is a frame-by-frame breakdown of just how incredible and deliberate this save was, despite what Lehtonen might have had to say after the game.
Many times, in cases like this, a goaltender makes a lunging dive or blind swing with a pad or glove or the paddle of the stick and the goal in cases like these is just trying to put something in the way of where the shot will go. Sometimes, the goalie gets lucky and the shot connects and a magical save is born. In this instance, however, Lehtonen made a very deliberate move to make a save on this shot -- and we'll show you how.
From this first angle, you can get a good sense of just how wide open the net was looking for Stoll. Let's get the fact that the stars inexplicably allowed a forward to sit all alone next to the crease like this, but you can see that Oleksiak had seen the shot come from the far circle and was trying to box out Lewis from the rebound.
The puck comes loose as Oleksiak lunges forward past Lehtonen -- and you can see how the Stars goaltender is looking away from the puck as it comes free.
This is the moment Stoll makes contact for the shot.
...and Lehtonen's lunge for the puck after the shot is released.
First of all, what's getting lost in all this are the series of amazing saves that led up to Stoll's chance. Here, the puck has come from the circle and settled in front of Lehtonen, who makes a sharp in-tight save on Lewis, which sends the rebound back across the crease.
Here's where it gets interesting. Lehtonen could not have seen the puck get loose but he instinctively senses the puck has kicked off his pad and to his left...
Here, it's most likely that he still hasn't seen the puck but instead is reacting to Stoll getting ready for the shot. At this point, there's only one option --
To lunge backwards and try and make the save. The angle is here perfect for this type of save, as Stoll makes contact with the puck actually outside of the crease and has to fire back against the angle of the rebound towards the net.
If Stoll were more square to the goal, this would have been an easy tap-in. Yet because he has to fire back against the angle of the rebound, he's allowed Lehtonen time to lunge backwards and use the best angle to snag the shot.
What needs to be pointed out here is that Lehtonen made a deliberate move with the glove as Stoll was letting the shot go. While it's true that if Stoll had shot the puck straight up to the top shelf Lehtonen wouldn't have had a chance, this was far from the 'blind stab' these types of saves can sometimes be.
Into the net of the glove, with plenty of space in front of the goal line.
Here's Kari Lehtonen talking about his shutout and then the save he made.
He's so humble.
Finally, let's enjoy the sights and sounds of both the Kings and Stars broadcasts for the save.