DALLAS – Kari Lehtonen watched during pre-game ceremonies as the Dallas Stars honoured former goalie Ed Belfour, who led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup in 1999.
Lehtonen went on give his best impression of Eddie the Eagle.
Lehtonen made 33 saves in regulation and overtime, then denied two of three Minnesota skaters in the shootout as the Stars beat the Wild 2-1 on Saturday night.
Belfour was recognized by the Stars as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2011, bringing back childhood memories for Lehtonen.
“(Belfour) was one of those goalies that I used to look up to when I was a little kid and I was fortunate enough to play against him a couple of times,” Lehtonen said. “He’s one of my heroes and it was nice to see him out there and get recognition. It was a good way to start the game.”
Jamie Benn also came up big for the Stars.
Benn won the shooting accuracy contest at all-star weekend, and his success in another skills competition earned the Stars a badly-needed two points when he converted in the second round of the shootout.
Loui Eriksson scored on a backhander for Dallas in the first round, but Matt Cullen got the Wild even in the second. Benn then beat Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom with a wrist shot that glanced off the goal post and into the net to give Dallas the advantage, and Lehtonen denied Jared Spurgeon to gain an extra point for the Stars.
“He made a good move and a good shot, just over the pad, off the post and in,” Backstrom said.
The Stars are 11-0-4 in their last 15 home games against the Wild, who haven’t won in Dallas since a 3-2 overtime victory on March 21, 2003.
Kyle Brodziak scored and Backstrom stopped 25 shots for the Wild.
Mike Ribeiro notched a power-play goal for the Stars.
Minnesota had won its previous two road games after going 11 games without an away victory.
Despite the defeat, Wild coach Mike Yeo liked much of what he saw from his team.
“Both teams played well,” Yeo said. “It was fast, it was hard-hitting. Especially 5 on 5, I thought we were really strong. So it’s a shame not to come out with two points, but still a lot of positives.”
The Wild went on the power play with 1:07 left in regulation when Sheldon Souray was whistled for hooking. The power play extended into the five-minute overtime, but the Wild couldn’t capitalize.
Dallas had a power-play opportunity in the final 55 seconds of the extra session when Cal Clutterbuck was called for tripping, but the Stars were unable to generate many chances.
Ribeiro took advantage of Dallas’ first power play of the night for the game’s initial goal with 4:48 to go in the second period.
Teammate Alex Goligoski’s shot from the point missed the net and bounced off the end boards. Minnesota’s Nick Schultz attempted to clear, but the puck wound up on the stick of Ribeiro, who buried his 11th goal of the season from the slot.
Minnesota drew even at 1-1 at 5:18 of the final period with the help of a turnover by Dallas’ Jake Dowell. Dowell’s backhand pass up the middle of the ice was intercepted by Brodziak, who skated in alone and lifted a shot over a sprawling Lehtonen for his 15th of the season.
Brodziak has at least a point in each of his last six games.
Dallas now has 56 points, two behind Minnesota, which currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan praised Lehtonen, but in the next breath stressed that his team needs to raise its overall level of play if it hopes to reach the playoffs.
“Well, we relied on our goalie a lot,” Gulutzan said. “We have to be better. I’m ecstatic about the two points. It’s going to help us and you can go back and rewind games. But we have a different level that we need to get to.”
NOTES: Belfour’s former teammates Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Modano, Brett Hull and Jere Lehtinen participated in the pre-game ceremony. All were members of the Stars’ ’99 team. Fans chanted “Eddie-Eddie” as highlights of Belfour’s career were shown on the video board. … Stars RW Michael Ryder played his 600th NHL game. … C Erik Christensen, acquired Friday in a trade with the New York Rangers, made his debut for the Wild, missing as Minnesota’s leadoff man in the SO. … Dallas LW Brenden Morrow (upper-body injury) missed his eighth game this season. The Stars’ captain has been the subject of trade rumours. … The Wild were without C Mikko Koivu (shoulder), D Clayton Stoner (lower-body), LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and RW Jarod Palmer (concussion).