A solid performance by Kari Lehtonen and a revamped second line proved to be the difference Tuesday night as the Dallas Stars spoiled the Detroit Red Wings’ home opener. Lehtonen stopped 39 of 40 shots and Michael Ryder scored two goals as the Stars beat the Red Wings, 2-1, at Joe Louis Arena.
It was a strong bounce back performance for the Stars, who were sluggish in a 1-0 loss at Minnesota on Sunday as they played the second game of a back-to-back. Tuesday there was some jump in their game.
“I think you saw us defending a little faster and getting on guys in our D zone. They are such a good team, so you have to defend fast,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “At the end of the day, I thought we created some good chances in the second, maybe took advantage of their back-to-back, but they got a push in them the last six minutes, they pushed real hard, but Kari was equal to the task. That summed up the game.”
And it added up to two points for the Stars, who improved to 2-1-0 on the season.
“It was a good win. It was fairly easy the first 50 minutes I would say, and then Detroit came harder,” said Lehtonen. “This place is not easy to come to and get wins. That was huge.”
Of Lehtonen’s 39 saves in the game, 19 came in the final period as the Red Wings tried to rally from a 1-0 and then a 2-0 deficit. Lehtonen had back-to-back stops on Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner in the first minute of the period with the Stars protecting a 1-0 lead. Lehtonen had 13 more saves over the final half of the period before Brunner scored with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game to spoil his shutout bid.
“I thought he was real good,” said Gulutzan. “He was real solid. We’re lucky that we’ve gotten good goaltending in the first three games.”
The Stars’ second line, which had a new look, provided all the offense. Gulutzan bumped Cody Eakin up the lineup to center the second line with Ryder and Ray Whitney on the wings. The line delivered the game’s first goal at 5:41 of the first period. Eakin and Ryder combined to win a puck battle and Ryder scored on a shot from the slot.
Ryder struck again early in the third when Eakin got the puck to Whitney, who sent a cross-ice pass to Ryder, who scored on a one-timer to give the Stars a 2-0 lead in the game.
The goals were the first two the season for Ryder, who led Dallas with 35 goals last season.
“I knew it was going to take a couple of games to get into it, the timing and everything,” said Ryder. “It’s only one game, but I feel better as each game goes on.”
Eakin, acquired from Washington in June, had two assists on the night.
“Just trying to create some more offense,” Gulutzan said of the Eakin move. “I thought the first two games we primarily got our offense from one line. We were just trying to find a way to create some more, put Eakin up there with Ryder and Whitney and see how it went.
“(Eakin) used his speed and he got pucks to guys. You get the puck to the right guy and Whitney feeds to Ryder, it’s a stinging combination. I thought he played a simple game, he is still improving and he’s going to get better as we go. That’s our hope for the whole group.”
The Red Wings, who were coming off a 4-3 shootout win at Columbus on Monday, fell to 1-2-0 on the season.
“I thought mentally we weren’t sharp,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It was one of those games that I would have liked to see us find a way to gut it out in the third period.”
Whitney playing through sore foot
Stars forward Ray Whitney has been dealing with a sore foot, but he played through it Tuesday night. “He can hardly walk,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I saw him limping around and thought for sure he wasn’t going to go, but lo and behold he can skate. His biggest assets are his mind and his will, and those two things are intact.”
*With Cody Eakin centering the second line Tuesday, Tom Wandell moved to the fourth line to center Ryan Garbutt and Reilly Smith.
*Stars defenseman Aaron Rome missed his third straight game due to a groin injury. He is expected to play either Thursday or Saturday.
*RW Colton Sceviour was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.