Returning home from California empty-handed and having dropped four of the last five games, the Stars (4-5-0) bounced back in a big way on Thursday behind the return of injured goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Jamie Benn and Alex Chiasson scored two goals a piece to seal the 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames (4-4-2). The win marks the third consecutive for the Stars at the American Airlines Center.
“Obviously after our road trip we wanted to come out here and be strong at home,” said Benn. “I thought our goalie played great tonight and we got a big two points.”
Kari Lehtonen returned from missing the last fives games with a lower body injury.
“I felt a little rusty, but the guys kept it pretty simple,” said Lehtonen. “They didn’t get too many crazy chances. They were simple shots and that was good for me to get back into playing.”
Lehtonen is now victorious in three of his four appearances this season. He ranks amongst the League's best in categories such as goals against average (1.41) and save percentage (.956).
“He’s our key player,” Chiasson said of Lehtonen. “You look at every team that is successful in this league and it starts with the goalie. I think he played awesome tonight”
In hopes to provide their ailing goaltender extra help, head coach Lindy Ruff made significant changes to the top-six rotation and challenged the effort from the unit as a whole. The Stars had allowed a total of 22 goals in the last five contests prior to Thursday's game.
"A lot better with our sticks, a lot better with getting our bodies in lanes. Sergei (Gonchar) blocked a key opportunity late in the second," said Ruff. "Point shots weren’t getting through near as easily as they were in the previous two games. That’s something we are going to keep working on.”
Kevin Connauton made his NHL debut against the Flames in place of Alex Goligoski. Paired with Sergei Gonchar, Connauton saw 16:05 of ice time, two penalty minutes, a plus-two rating and blocked four shots.
Ruff told the Stars official website that he liked what he saw from the 23-year-old Connauton, who had been a healthy scratch the first eight games this season.
“Maybe a little nervous in the first period, but he settled in and that pair was pretty efficient after that,” Ruff said. “I thought Kevin started to use his legs a little bit and felt better about his game as the game went on.”
In the opening frame, the Stars would take the lead early on when Chiasson beat Flames goaltender Karri Ramo after receiving a centering pass from Ray Whitney.
“Great play by Whits,” Chiasson said. “I think he was the only one in the whole building who saw me.”
While the Flames would tie the game at 1-1 early in the second period, the Stars would go on to score three unanswered goals in just a little over a minute to take a 4-1 lead.
Chiasson's second goal to make the game 2-1 was initially waved off, but video review confirmed it was a good goal. 18 seconds later, Jamie Benn tallies from the left circle making it 3-1.
“When you score and then you score again that usually kills the other team’s momentum,” said Chiasson. “We scored two quick goals there and it felt like they backed off a bit.”
Benn's goal continues his current point streak to five consecutive games (2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points).
Less than a minute later, Shawn Horcoff's faceoff win sets up Brenden Dillon's shot through traffic that beats Ramo from the left point, giving the Stars a comfortable 4-1 lead in heading into the final period.
“Well, those three quick goals, they definitely took lots of energy out of us and we just couldn’t recover,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Benn would go on to record his second goal of the game early on in the third period after receiving a pass from Chiasson to put the Stars up 5-1 in the final period.
Chiasson's third point of the night marks the 16th of his NHL career in just 16 NHL games.
The five goals for Dallas on Thursday marks the most the Stars have recorded in one game so far this season.
The Stars (4-5-0) will stay home to take on the Winnipeg Jets (4-5-2) Saturday night at the American Airlines Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.