DALLAS – Kari Lehtonen admitted he was more fired up than normal in his first appearance against his former team.
Lehtonen made 29 saves, defenceman Trevor Daley scored twice on the power play for his first two-goal game in the NHL, and the Dallas Stars beat the Atlanta Thrashers 6-1 on Saturday night.
“It was the most exciting game for me this year, lots of emotions,” Lehtonen said. “I played my own game, the guys came up big there in the third period and the last parts of the second. It was a good win.”
Lehtonen, the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft, played for the Thrashers from 2003 until he was traded to the Stars on Feb. 9, 2010.
Many of the faces have changed for the Thrashers since Lehtonen’s injury-plagued stay in Atlanta, but the uniform is the same.
“I was kind of surprised when I looked at their lineup and there’s eight players that I used to play with, so that’s quite a changeover in players,” Lehtonen said. “It’s still—they felt like the enemy for me, so I guess now I’m a Dallas Star for sure.”
James Neal also had a two-goal game for the Stars, who have won seven straight on the road but are only 2-3-2 in their last seven at home.
The Stars made sure Lehtonen had plenty of support, scoring six times on 27 shots.
“He wanted to come in and have a big game tonight and he did just that,” Neal said. “Anytime you play a former team, you do anything you can to get the win, especially for your goalie.”
Adam Burish and Jeff Woywitka added goals for Dallas, which went 4 for 5 on the power play and matched its season high for goals.
Andrew Ladd scored for Atlanta, 0-3-1 in its last four.
The Thrashers were on the second half of back-to-back games, having lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at home on Friday night. The Stars were coming off a three-day break.
Thrashers goalie Chris Mason left the game in the first period because of an undisclosed lower-body injury. Mason was hit by teammate Chris Thorburn, who was sliding after blocking a shot.
Mason remained in the game for a brief stretch, and wanted to stay, but he was in pain and was replaced by Ondrej Pavelec at 7:48.
“That’s courage, because he was hurt. He didn’t want to come out. He’s a great kid,” coach Craig Ramsay said.
Pavelec thought he was getting the night off, and he allowed Daley’s first power-play goal on the first shot he faced. Daley’s long-distance attempt deflected off the stick of Atlanta’s Zach Bogosian and into the net at 9:31, and five more shots eluded Pavelec before the game was over.
“My job is to be ready,” Pavelec said. “Anything can happen. But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to get ready for the next one.”
Ladd tied it at one with his 16th goal of the season at 6:21 of the second period.
But Burish’s deflection at 13:58 of the second put Dallas in front, and Daley added his second of the night from the right circle with 54.3 seconds left in the period.
Neal’s tap-in of Loui Eriksson’s cross-ice feed extended the Stars’ lead to 4-1 at 11:09 of the final period.
Neal added his 18th on the power play at 16:54, and Woywitka also struck on the same four-minute power play at 18:52 to turn the game into a rout.
Players from both sides did some talking during pre-game warmups, led by Dallas’ Krys Barch and Atlanta’s Eric Boulton.
Boulton took exception when Dallas’ Mike Ribeiro bumped into him on Atlanta’s side of the ice during the practice period. The teams milled around at centre ice for a few minutes to exchange heated words and menacing gestures before resuming the warmup. No punches were thrown. The teams have little history, meeting for the only time this season and 13th ever.
“No big deal,” Boulton said. “We just started yapping a little bit.”
Barch and Boulton had a brief fight midway through the first period, and Dallas’ Brian Sutherby and Thorburn dropped the gloves halfway through the second.
NOTES: Dallas is 11-1-1 against Atlanta. … The Stars had D Karis Skrastins back in the lineup after he missed three games, but D Matt Niskanen sat out his fourth straight game. The teammates collided while warming up before the third period of a win at Chicago. Skrastins sustained a broken nose, and Niskanen had a deep cut on his hand. … Dallas had four power-play goals for the second time this season. … The Stars also scored six times in a win over Phoenix on Nov. 5.