After a 2-0-0 start to March, Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen had struggled winning just one of his next six outings. A sluggish offense hasn’t been doing him any favors, but the Stars put together one of their best team wins of the season on Thursday night, shutting out the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings behind a 40-save performance from their star goaltender.
With constant rumors swirling about which Stars player might be dealt in a trade, it can’t be easy for the team to focus on the task at hand right now. Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and even Jaromir Jagr have seen their names come up as potential short-term solutions for teams in pursuit of the playoffs this season, but the Stars currently find themselves just one point shy of being in the playoff picture at the moment. If Lehtonen and his teammates can fire off a few more quality wins, the Stars may not be looking to move as many pieces of their team before the trade deadline.
The win was Lehtonen’s 11th of the season, but his first shutout. With the exception of a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday and a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, the Stars offense has not given Lehtonen more than two goals of support in almost a month. The offseason additions of Jagr, Roy and others was supposed to boost an offense that struggled to score last season, but it became clear early on this season that Lehtonen’s performance would have a huge impact on whether or not the Stars reached the postseason. Thursday night’s win showed that he can turn in the kind of performance the Stars need against one of the best teams in the conference, and is hopefully a sign of things to come in the next few weeks. The Stars will get a chance for revenge against the Avalanche tomorrow night, and Lehtonen seems like the obvious choice for the start.