(Photo: Alan Sullivan)

Lindy Ruff had been rotating his goaltenders during the regular season, so the Dallas Stars’ starter for game one of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild could go either way.

Ruff chose to start Kari Lehtonen over Antti Niemi in the crease and that has worked out for the Stars in the first two games of the series so far. Lehtonen has carried his strong end of the season play into the postseason. He was 8-1-0 in his last nine regular season games played where he had a 1.68 goals against average to go with a .935 save percentage. The goalie’s strong play helped the Stars to win the Central Division over the St. Louis Blues and avoid facing the defending champions, Chicago Blackhawks, in the first round.

In the first two games of the series, Lehtonen is 2-0-0 having faced only 48 shots while allowing only one goal. The goalie has a 0.50 goals against average, a .979 save percentage and one shutout in the postseason. In his previous eight postseason games, Lehtonen had a record of 2-6 to go with a 3.88 goals against average and a .874 save percentage.

In game one, he only faced 22 shots and none of them got passed him. In game two, he faced 26 shots against but did have to make a couple of critical saves at the end of the second period. Charlie Coyle and Mikko Koivu had some chances with 2.4 seconds left in the second period, but Lehtonen made the saves to protect the Stars 1-0 leading entering the final period. The Wild finally solved Lehtonen in the third period of game two on a power play to bring the score to 2-1 in favor of Dallas. The goal by Marco Scandella ended a 112:42 playoff shutout streak for Lehtonen.

Lehtonen was busy in the third period as the Stars were outshot 8-4 in the final period in game two. The goalie has been making the saves that need to be made and is square to the shooters. He also seems to be tracking the puck well in the series so far. Lehtonen has only had to face 48 shots through two games so he has also gotten some help from the players in front of him whether they are blocking shots or just being in good position so the Wild can’t get the shots through to him. Minnesota is without one of its top forwards in Zach Parise, who is out with an injury.

The Stars may have a 2-0 lead in the series, but the Wild will look to take full advantage of home ice for the next two games. The Wild will looks to use the energy from its home crowd to try cut the Stars’ series lead in half.

 

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