The Dallas Stars welcomed back Cody Eakin, and rode a stellar performance from Kari Lehtonen to a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. It was ugly, but fans have come to expect a bit of chaos when Colorado comes to town.
If the first period wasn’t a best-case scenario for the Stars it was awfully close. Johnny Oduya got the ball rolling, and got a very big monkey off his back. The veteran defender pounded a slap-shot into traffic, got a favorable bounce of Tyson Barrie’s knee, and staked the Stars to a 1-0 lead. Credit to Devin Shore for creating havoc in front of the net.
Brett Ritchie was next. Good work put the Stars on the power play, and a good cycle left Devin Shore with the puck on his stick along the outside of the faceoff circle. A quick pass set Ritchie’s table, and the big winger whipped a wrist shot past Varlamov to double the Stars’ advantage.
Seguin-to-Eaves put a cherry on top of the period, again on the power play. The NHL’s co-leader in assists faked a shoot and fed a pass to Patrick Eaves along the right wing. Varlamov couldn’t catch up and it was three nil Stars.
The Avs managed a few quick flurries to close out the period. Most notably, Kari Lehtonen had to move quickly to stifle a turnaround shot. The dam held, however, and the Stars made it to break with a three-goal lead.
The lead wouldn’t last. A determined Colorado squad kept the Stars off-balance throughout the second period. The Avs forced a pair of power plays during the period, and would wind up out-shooting the Stars 16-10.
Their persistence paid off a little over twelve minutes into the frame. A bad bounce eluded Jordie Benn on the blue line, good work along the boards by Andreas Martinsen freed the puck, and a no-brainer finish by Nathan MacKinnon broke Lehtonen’s shutout. The goal was especially galling as it came with the Stars on the power play.
It could have been worse. Carl Soderberg, in particular, was left to wonder how Lehtonen was able to keep him from converting a late 2-1 opportunity. Barrie and MacKinnon also saw quality chances turned away.
The aggressive Avs continued to push, and with 1:51 gone in the third period Mikhail Grigorenko had made it a one shot game. His deft tip of a MacKinnon point shot left Lehtonen with very little chance, and left the Stars reeling. Lehtonen donned his Superman cape again at the 10:11 mark in the third period. MacKinnon (of course) sprung free on the left hand side, but could not force a shot past the big Finn’s glove.
The Stars were finally able to breathe with 2:07 left in the third. Devin Shore took a high stick and drew the Stars’ seventh power play of the evening. It was enough, barely, to send the Stars to victory.