DALLAS – Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow returned from an 18-game injury absence with a key goal. He also was bailed out by goalie Kari Lehtonen when he was whistled for three penalties.
Morrow scored on the power play, Lehtonen made 21 saves for his 20th career shutout, and the Stars stretched their winning streak to five games with a 2-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Morrow, sidelined by neck and shoulder stiffness, skated on the left side of a line with Jamie Benn and Steve Ott.
Morrow scored his ninth goal of the season at 2:37 of the second period, converting Benn’s centring pass just as a 5-on-3 Dallas power play expired. Ott also assisted on the goal.
The Stars killed off all four Anaheim power plays, three on Morrow’s penalties.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Morrow said. “I didn’t want to screw things up for the team. Kari made sure I didn’t do that the couple of times I was sitting in the penalty box. Kudos to him.”
Morrow has 514 career points, tying him with Jere Lehtinen for ninth in franchise history.
Lehtonen made Morrow’s goal stand up, preserving his third shutout of the season with a sharp glove save against Anaheim’s Saku Koivu with under 15 minutes to play.
“It was difficult game,” Lehtonen said. “It was 1-0 and we took a couple of penalties. It was more nerve-racking than normal for a 20-shot game. Every game is huge. It’s easy to get excited. I’m pretty even-keel, and that helps. When you’re a goalie you have to be. You can’t get too rattled.”
Michael Ryder added an empty-netter, tying a career high with his 30th of the season, with 45.5 seconds left to clinch a victory that the team credited to Lehtonen.
“Our goalie didn’t look like he was going to give up anything,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “The defence packed it in well and prevented second shots. The best part of my day was when I heard the buzzer and that guy got a shutout. We owed him one.”
The victory gave the Pacific Division-leading Stars, 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, 81 points.
Jonas Hiller made 21 saves for the Ducks, 2-5 in their last seven games as their playoff hopes fade.
“We’re in a do-or-die situation,” Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Stars went 5-1 against the Ducks in the season series that concluded Saturday night.
A series of four Anaheim penalties in the second period put the Ducks on the defensive, leading to Morrow’s goal. The calls had the Ducks shaking their heads on the bench, leaving coach Bruce Boudreau frustrated over the officiating.
“The funny thing is if you say anything, it costs you $10,000, and if you don’t say anything, nothing gets done,” Boudreau said. “It’s a really a double-edged sword.”
Ducks leading goal scorer Corey Perry had to go to the locker room with less than seven minutes left in the second period after taking a hard hit into the boards by Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas. Robidas went to the penalty box for boarding while Perry skated shakily to the bench with a shoulder injury.
Perry, who had four goals in his previous four games, returned for the third period but was only able to stay on the ice for a minute and 35 seconds before calling it a night. X-rays on the shoulder were negative.
Perry had four goals in his previous four games and his team clearly missed his presence.
Boudreau felt Robidas should have received a stiffer penalty than a minor.
“If that isn’t a five-minute penalty, I don’t know what is,” Boudreau said. “(Perry’s) in the most vulnerable position, headfirst going into the boards and he’s getting a shove, whether it’s a little shove or a big shove. It’s a shove of a defenceless person into the boards. You put your best player out in a game we had to win.”
Notes: C Nick Bonino (leg) and G Dan Ellis (groin) sat out for the Ducks. … Dallas D Sheldon Souray (lower body) and forward Jake Dowell (finger) and missed the game for Dallas. … Lehtonen has started 17 of the last 19 games. … Ott returned after missing a game due to back spasms. … Hiller has played 63 of Anaheim’s 69 games. … Dallas RW Radek Dvorak left in the third period with an ankle injury and did not return. … Ryder reached 30 goals for the third time in his career.