DALLAS – The Dallas Stars need Marty Turco at the top of his game – the way he was Tuesday night – if they hope to get back to the playoffs.
Turco made 25 saves for his 35th career shutout and the Stars beat the Atlanta Thrashers 2-0. Jere Lehtinen and Steve Ott scored for the Stars to back Turco’s second shutout of the season. The Stars lost in a shootout to Phoenix in Turco’s first shutout on Jan. 10.
Dallas began the night with a 3.22 goals-against average, 27th in the league, and Turco’s been inconsistent for much of the season.
But Turco was sharp from the outset against Atlanta, benefiting from the all-star break.
“You’re always striving for shutouts,” said Turco, who’s won all seven of his career games against Atlanta. “If we can play like this, good things will happen. I didn’t miss a beat. I felt fresher.”
Dallas improved to 8-2-1 in its last 11 home games. The Stars have rallied from a poor start to the season and are 10-4-3 in their last 17 games overall to climb into playoff contention.
“Marty’s a proven guy,” Ott said. “We knew all along that he’d find his game. We’ve got to keep building our record and keep pushing for the playoffs.”
The Thrashers, shut out for the fourth time this season, wasted Kari Lehtonen’s 31-save performance.
“You can’t just have one guy going,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “We’re not so blessed with talent that we can have five or six guys take nights off.”
Lehtonen stopped Ott’s breakaway with 4:07 remaining and denied Loui Eriksson from close range with 2:44 left to keep the Thrashers within two goals.
But Lehtonen couldn’t get any offensive help from his teammates until late when the Thrashers had 13 of their 25 shots in the third period.
“I don’t think we were awake the first two periods,” Lehtonen said.
Lehtinen’s third goal was upheld by video review after the puck caromed in off his chest from a centring pass by Mike Ribeiro at 3:48 of the first period.
Lehtinen and Lehtonen are both natives of Finland, and they know each other well.
“He’s a strong man with a big chest,” Lehtonen said with a smile. “It was just lucky, I guess.”
The Stars did a strong defensive job on Thrashers top scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who had eight goals in his previous 10 games and 24 points in 22 games. The all-star left winger, who had five shots, had best chance when he was alone in front of the net with less than seven minutes left in the first period but was denied by Turco’s glove save.
“I was pretty lucky,” Turco said. “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I had it in my glove. But that was one I needed.”
Ott’s sixth goal came on a tap-in of Trevor Daley’s goal-mouth pass 28 seconds into the second period to push Dallas’ lead to 2-0.
Notes: The Stars began a stretch of 11 of 16 home games. …Dallas is 10-1-0 all-time against the Thrashers. Atlanta was playing in Dallas for the first time since Jan. 18, 2006, the Thrashers’ only win over the Stars. … Attendance was announced at 16,726 but there were thousands of empty seats. Freezing rain in the area kept fans off the roads. … C Jim Slater (shoulder) was out for Atlanta. … Dallas LW Landon Wilson is out with a rib injury. … The Stars posted back-to-back wins for the third time this season.