DALLAS – Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford will remember his 500th victory for the performance by his goaltender, not his team’s season-best offensive outburst.
Kari Lehtonen made 44 saves in his second start of the season, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow each scored twice – including short-handed goals in the third period – and the Stars boosted their fading playoff chances with an 8-2 rout of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
“We were good in all areas. There are so many positives to draw on, but it starts and ends with your goaltender,” said Crawford, who’ll start Lehtonen again Thursday night against Philadelphia. “That was a terrific performance by Kari Lehtonen. He gave our group confidence.”
Brad Richards struck on the power play and had two assists, and Brandon Segal added a goal for the Stars, who pulled seven points behind No. 8 Detroit in the Western Conference. Toby Petersen and Steve Ott also scored, and Ribeiro and Morrow contributed two assists each.
Lehtonen, who missed most of the season following two back surgeries, was playing his fourth game for Dallas since he was acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Feb. 9. Lehtonen gave up six goals on 34 shots in a loss on March 6 at Pittsburgh, his first start for the Stars.
“I think the first game in Pittsburgh I was a little bit too excited, and it ended up going pretty badly,” Lehtonen said after his first win for Dallas. “Tonight I was able to be more calm in net, and that really works for me best.”
Crawford – who also coached Quebec-Colorado, Vancouver and Los Angeles – became the 15th coach in NHL history to reach 500 victories.
“I’m glad it’s out of the way,” Crawford said. “It means I’ve been around for awhile.”
The Stars are 2-5-1 since the Olympic break, and with 13 games left, time is running out on their bid for the playoffs.
“We beat a real good club, but we have a big challenge ahead of us,” Morrow said.
Dan Boyle had a power-play goal and Devin Setoguchi scored at even strength for the Sharks, the Western Conference leaders by two points over Central Division-leading Chicago. San Jose is 3-3-1 since the break.
Richards gave Dallas the lead at 9:28 of the first period when his one-timer from the right circle glanced off Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s glove and into the net.
Petersen made it 2-0 at 2:34 of the second period when got a perfect bounce off the end boards following a dump-in by teammate Karlis Skrastins and backhanded a shot past Nabokov.
Segal’s deflection 2:56 after Petersen’s goal stretched Dallas’ advantage to 3-0. Segal, a waiver pickup from Los Angeles on Feb. 11, has five goals and three assists in his first seven games for Dallas.
Morrow’s one-timer from the left circle gave Dallas a 4-0 lead at 7:46 of the second period, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan replaced Nabokov with Thomas Greiss after Nabokov allowed four goals on 17 shots.
“We didn’t show up in the second period and they took it to us,” San Jose captain Rob Blake said. “Our turnovers and sloppy play in the zone allowed them to capitalize. There’s no way we thought they were going to just roll over and let us take two points. You’ve got to respond.”
San Jose had 19 shots in the second period, with Boyle’s goal at 18:39 pulling San Jose to 4-1.
Setoguchi made it 4-2 at :51 of the third period, but Ribeiro and Morrow scored short-handed later in the third as the Stars ended a four-game home losing streak (0-3-1).
“The scoreboard doesn’t lie,” McLellan said. “It went from bad to worse. I can’t stand here and make excuses for them. Obviously everybody watched it, saw how poorly we played. It wasn’t something that we can just go pick two or three guys. It was a full team so it was very frustrating.”
San Jose took chances in an effort to catch up, and Dallas capitalized with a four-goal third period.
“They were pressing and that’s how we got our short-handed goals,” Morrow said. “They had some risky plays that they wouldn’t have tried if it was closer.”
The Stars were without centre Mike Modano, the all-time leading goal-scorer among U.S.-born players, as he is out indefinitely after undergoing an appendectomy on Monday.
NOTES: The Stars scored their most goals since a 10-2 win over the New York Rangers on Feb. 6, 2009. …Dallas D Stephane Robidas received a 5-minute major and game misconduct for boarding at 10:59 of the second period for a hit on San Jose’s Ryane Clowe that opened a cut over Clowe’s eye. … The teams play three times during a 16-day span. … San Jose set a season-high for goals allowed. … The last time the Stars scored two short-handed goals in a game was Nov. 6, 2002, against Vancouver by Morrow and Modano. … San Jose made the second stop of a six-game trip. …Dallas D Nicklas Grossman (back) returned after missing four straight games.