Lehtonen has 26 saves, Stars beat Coyotes 2-1

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 8, 2014 at 11:14 pm •  Published: February 8, 2014
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DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Stars' three Olympians sent their team into the Olympic break on a high note Saturday night.

Finland's Kari Lehtonen made 26 saves to lead Dallas over the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 Saturday night.

He received plenty of help from the Stars' defense and got goals from Ray Whitney and Russia's Valeri Nichushkin. Canada's Jamie Benn assisted on Whitney's goal.

The victory moved Dallas into the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference for the first time this season.

"We've come from a long way," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "You've got to give the guys credit for digging in.

"I thought if we got within three or four points at the break, we could be a serious contender. We've exceeded that."

The Stars and Coyotes have identical 27-21-10 records for 64 points, but Dallas holds a tiebreaker over Phoenix, which fell to ninth.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said his team's position at the break is "probably about where we should be. I think we're better than that, but that's where we are."

"I'm not worrying about that too much yet," Lehtonen said of Dallas' position in the standings. "It's good that we're moving to the right direction. We just have to keep going."

He was more impressed by defeating Phoenix twice in five days to make up four points on the Coyotes.

"They were huge games both times. I really like it when we play well as a team."

Dallas limited Phoenix to 27 shots, 13 in the third period. Lehtonen shut them out until Radim Vrbata scored on a power play with 15 seconds remaining.

The Coyotes had six skaters to the Stars' four because Tippett had pulled goalie Mike Smith, who had 31 saves.

"Again (Lehtonen) was rock solid," said Ruff, an assistant coach for Canada's Olympic team. "He came up with some big saves. One when we were killing a penalty he went down low and made a glove save. He made a big stop on their breakaway when they were short-handed.

"The only thing I would like to have seen was for him to get the shutout."

"We couldn't generate too much offensively," Vrbata said. "But I think (Smith's) playing the way we know he can play. Hopefully, he's going to stay like that and we can do a little better for him."

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