Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen peaking at right time

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has stopped 47 of 48 shots in the first two games of the first-round NHL playoff series against Minnesota.
Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has stopped 47 of 48 shots in the first two games of the first-round NHL playoff series against Minnesota. AP

Coach Lindy Ruff called his game “strong.” Captain Jamie Benn praised his “big saves” at key moments.

There’s no question Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is peaking at the right time, playing his best in the playoffs. Lehtonen shut out the Minnesota Wild in Game 1, and then allowed only a power-play goal in a 2-1 victory in Game 2.

Lehtonen has stopped 47 of 48 shots through the first two games for a .979 save percentage, and is arguably the biggest reason they lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday in Minnesota.

“His goaltending has been very strong going down the stretch here for us,” Ruff said. “He gave us a great game [in Game 2].”

Added Benn: “He’s playing some good hockey. He’s making big saves in key times. You saw it [in Game 2] with a few seconds left.”

The Wild did have a couple of good looks in the final seconds with an extra attacker, trying to tie the game and force overtime. But Lehtonen didn’t let anything through.

It’s been that way down the stretch with Lehtonen in the net. In his last nine regular-season games, Lehtonen went 8-1-0 with a .935 save percentage.

“As the year goes on, you get comfortable with things,” Lehtonen said. “I’ve been working on new stuff with the goalie coach [Jeff Reese]. Everything is coming together now and that’s excellent.”

Despite his play of late, Ruff still won’t fully commit to Lehtonen. Signs would seem to suggest Lehtonen would get the start in Game 3, but nothing is assured with the Stars’ dueling goalie philosophy with Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.

Each goalie won 25 games during the regular season and the approach has kept each of them fresh for the postseason.

And Lehtonen isn’t taking anything for granted, not even his success. Playing in his 12th professional season, he knows things can turn worse in a hurry.

“We’re still a long way away from winning this thing. We have to keep our focus,” he said. “We have to keep getting ready for the next game and doing everything we need to do to get a win.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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