CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Kari Lehtonen had a rough beginning as a backup goalie with the Dallas Stars this season.
In just his second start of the season, Lehtonen made 29 saves to backstop the Stars to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
“I hadn’t played much and now I was able to get a chance and, of course, you want to do well and help the team,” said the 33-year-old veteran from Finland, who was selected second overall by the Atlanta Thrashers at the 2002 NHL Draft. “Everything’s hard. It’s hard to play every night. It’s hard to play once in two weeks. You just have to go out there with a fresh mind and believe in your abilities as a goalie.”
Lehtonen lost his only other start of the season on Oct. 7 and was also tagged with two other losses in relief appearances of Ben Bishop, who the Stars acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on May 5 for a fourth-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft.
“He was huge at some points in the game,” said Dallas forward Alexander Radulov, who scored the game-winning goal on a power play for the Stars in the third period. “Thank you to him. We all know he’s a good goalie. Doesn’t matter who is playing. You’ve just got to be strong for the team and strong for the group and just try to find a way to win the hockey game. That’s the bottom line.”
Defenseman Esa Lindell also scored for the Stars (6-5-0), who had lost two straight games including a 5-4 decision to the Oilers on Thursday in Edmonton.
Johnny Gaudreau scored for Calgary (5-6-0), while Mike Smith finished with 22 saves.
The Flames failed to score on two chances with the man advantage, while they surrendered two goals in three power-play opportunities for the Stars.
“Five-on-five in our last three games, we’ve given up two goals so our penalty kill and power play needs to start helping us,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We are a little passive. That’s what happens when you get scored on, you become unsure of yourself. We have to find that mojo back here to kill penalties.”
Gaudreau notched his third goal of the season at 10:18 of the second when he wired a perfect shot to the top corner, glove side past Lehtonen.
Shortly after Lehtonen stopped Mikael Backlund’s short-handed breakaway attempt, Lindell blasted a point shot through traffic past Smith during the same power play for the Stars at 16:51 of the second.
“I’m just trying to get the shot to the net,” said Lindell, who scored his second goal in as many games and third of the season. “That’s all that I’m trying to do and it worked out.”
Radulov then took a pass from Devin Shore and snapped a shot to the top corner over Smith’s outstretched glove hand for the game-winning goal at 12:50 of the third.
Lehtonen made a shoulder save to stop a shot off the stick of Matthew Tkachuk with 3.3 seconds left in the game to preserve the victory.
“I thought it was a pretty even game tonight,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “Both teams had their moments. The bottom line is we are getting our looks, we just have to put them in.”
NOTES: Jaromir Jagr, who missed his third straight game for the Flames with a lower-body injury, could be ready to return to the lineup for Calgary’s home game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday. . While the Flames played the first of seven straight games at the Saddledome (their longest homestand of the season), the Stars still have two games to go on their trip.
Stars: Are at Vancouver on Monday.
Flames: Host Washington on Sunday.