Stars, Lehtonen Edge Senators in Shootout
The Stars (6-6-2) began a three game Eastern Conference road trip with a 4-3 shootout win in Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday afternoon against the Senators. Forwards Ray Whitney, Valeri Nichushkin and Antoine Roussel all recorded their first goals of the season, while goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 33 saves in regulation/overtime and stopped all three of Ottawa's shootout attempts.
Scoring a total of just three goals in their previous two games, Stars coach Lindy Ruff opted to shake up the forward lines going into Sunday's game against the Senators in attempt to spread the scoring chances throughout the lineup. Perhaps the most notable move made by Ruff was placing rookie Valeri Nichushkin into the top six forward groupings, despite recording just two points so far this season.
Dallas would strike first by taking a 1-0 lead after Ray Whitney beat goaltender Craig Anderson off the rush with just under 3 minutes remaining in the opening frame.
Thirty seconds into the second period, Nichushkin received a drop pass from defenseman Brenden Dillon and beat Anderson blocker side. Nichushkin's snap shot put the Stars up 2-0, marking his first career NHL goal.
“He’s really come along. Tonight I thought he dominated.” said Ruff.
Nichushkin saw his second highest ice-time total since the season opener against Florida (19:29) and matched a season-high with three shots on goal.
“You look at not only this game, but a few games before it and you can see he is getting more comfortable,” said Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar. “He’s controlling the puck a little bit more, you can see it coming. It seems like he is making nice progress.”
The Stars would give up the 2-0 lead in the second period after goals from defenseman Erik Karlsson and captain Jason Spezza. Despite the Stars' third period goal credited to Roussel after a clearing mishap from Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki that put the Stars up 3-2, the Senators would go on to tie the game with 9.3 seconds left in the final frame when forward Bobby Ryan beat Lehtonen from the slot.
Just under two minutes into the overtime period, Ottawa would lose their starting goaltender as Anderson was immobilized and taken off the ice on a stretcher after a hit in the head from Nichushkin as he was driving hard to the net. The Senators training staff confirmed Anderson suffered a stiff neck and will be evaluated on Monday.
Still tied at 3-3 after the overtime period, Stars captain Jamie Benn's wrist shot goal that beat backup goaltender Robin Lehner proved to be the game winner in the shootout. Lehtonen stopped all three of the Senators shooters (Michalek, Spezza, Ryan).
Defenseman Alex Goligoski lead the team in ice time (25:54), while Jamie Benn lead in shots on goal (5).
Sunday marked the Stars' third win against the Eastern Conference and improve to 3-5-0 on the road this season. They travel to Boston to take on the Bruins on Tuesday, and continue their road trip in the East coast on Thursday night in Detroit.