NEW YORK (AP) After a game in which Dallas got balanced scoring to cruise to its second straight win, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock gave all the credit to goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Lehtonen stopped 32 shots to earn his 300th career victory, becoming the 33rd goalie in NHL history to accomplish the feat, and Dallas beat the New York Islanders 5-2 Wednesday night.
”It’s a huge moment for him but he was good tonight,” Hitchcock said. ”This is one you have to look and say your goalie was your best player because to win in this building and against that team, your goalie is going to have to be your best player. … They’re a top-scoring team in the league. He had to earn it tonight and I thought he did a great job.”
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Tyler Pitlick scored twice and Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists for the Stars. Alexander Radulov and Remi Elie also scored as Dallas has opened a four-game trip with consecutive wins after a three-game skid.
”You can’t rely on your best players to get the goals every single game,” Pitlick said, ”so when the secondary guys can step up and get some goals, it’s huge.”
Lehtonen, who has had a reduced role this season with the addition of Ben Bishop, made his second straight start after leading Dallas to a 2-1 shootout win at the New York Rangers two nights earlier.
”It’s nice to be able to play two games in a row and get good results,” he said. ”That’s something that makes me believe in what I’m doing and how I’m practicing and all that good stuff. After the last game I knew my game was in a good place. … It was nice to keep the good mojo going.”
Anders Lee scored twice for the Islanders, who have lost five of seven (2-4-1), and John Tavares and Josh Bailey each had two assists. Jaroslav Halak, starting for the seventh time in nine games, was pulled near the midpoint of the second period after giving up four goals on 20 shots. Thomas Greiss came on and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.
”The effort wasn’t up to our standards,” Tavares said. ”We know that. We weren’t executing consistently enough to really dictate the terms of the game.”
Leading 2-0 after one period, the Stars added to their lead 1:01 into the second. Devin Shore got a pass from Klingberg and fired a shot from the right side that Halak stopped. However, the rebound went in front and Elie fired it in before the Islanders’ goalie could recover for his fourth.
Benn made it 4-0 at 9:21 as he brought the puck up the left side, paused briefly above the left circle and fired a shot past Halak for his 13th.
Greiss came on to replace Halak after that.
Bailey hit the inside of the right goalpost with 9 1/2 minutes remaining in the second for the Islanders, and Casey Cizikas also hit a post about three minutes later.
Pitlick made it 5-0 with his second of the night and fifth of the season just 21 seconds into the third, deflecting a point shot by Klingberg past Greiss. Benn had an assist on the play, giving him two goals and three assists in his last three games.
Lee put in a deflection 45 seconds later to get New York on the scoreboard, and made it 5-2 with his 19th with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
”We pressured the puck hard on the forecheck,” Hitchcock said. ”First two periods we were excellent. We got soft on the puck in the third and the Islanders started coming at us.”
The Stars took a 1-0 lead at 7:37 as Dan Hamhuis fired a shot from above circle that bounced off the end boards and came right to Pitlick, who put it in from the left side for his fourth of the season.
Jordan Eberle fired a shot that Lehtonen knocked down and smothered with about eight minutes left. The Stars’ goalie also denied Andrew Ladd’s attempt on a rebound in front less than a minute later and a deflection by Tavares in close with a little more than five minutes to go.
Radulov made it 2-0 with 4:14 remaining in the first, firing it past Halak from outside the right circle in front of the side boards for his 10th.
NOTES: Dallas improved to 15-3-0 when scoring first and 14-1-1 when leading after two periods. … The Stars, who beat New York 5-0 at home on Nov. 10, completed a sweep of the two-game season series. … Tavares now has 318 assists for his career, moving him past Stefan Persson into eighth place on the franchise list. … New York lost in regulation at home for just the second time this season, falling to 9-2-2 at Barclays Center.
Stars: At New Jersey in the third of a four-game trip.
Islanders: At Columbus on Thursday night before returning for a five-game homestand.
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