DALLAS (AP) — Kari Lehtonen stopped all 37 shots and the Dallas Stars clearly frustrated the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks.
Everything changed in this first-round series when the Stars got their first home playoff game in six years.
While Dallas captain Jamie Benn skated out of the penalty box to score first and 19-year-old rookie Valeri Nichushkin added a goal, Anaheim’s dynamic scoring duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry probably had more punches than shots as the Stars won 3-0 in Game 3 Monday night.
“I’m pretty sure if you watch the scrums, our guys got punched in the face a few times,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Eventually you’re going to punch back. … For us, we know we’ve got a good skating team and I think that we can frustrate.”
Ruff said it was “just playoff hockey.”
Lehtonen held up through five Anaheim power plays and had some tremendous stops to get his first career postseason victory.
“It was unbelievable. That’s Kari at his best,” Benn said. “He made some big saves at key times and kept us in the game and pretty much won that game for us.”
Game 4 is Wednesday night. And this best-of-seven series is now guaranteed Game 5 in Anaheim, where the Ducks opened the series with a pair of one-goal victories.
It had been 2,162 days since the Stars last hosted a playoff game, May 19, 2008, a 4-1 loss to Detroit in the clinching Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. This one ended with chants for Lehtonen, previously 0-4 in the playoffs (two losses with Atlanta in 2007) with a 4.58 goals-against average and .858 save percentage.
“I think in the first game I got scored on with the first shot and that just kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game. I was able to make a couple of good saves and it just kind of went from there,” Lehtonen said. “At the age of 30, it was about time to get that first one.”
Late in the second period, Getzlaf and Perry were exchanging punches with different Dallas players during a stoppage. Antoine Roussel delivered a roundhouse left to Getzlaf, the Anaheim captain wearing a half-visor to protect the stitches from taking a puck to the face in Game 1. Meanwhile, Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski and Perry were going at it.
Asked about the physical play, Getzlaf responded, “You’ve got to stay as disciplined as you can, but you have to protect yourself, too. I never expected them to target my face that much.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was pretty direct with how he felt.
“I guess you do anything to win, but it’s not something I think our team would do,” Boudreau said. “We’ll take them and be as mean and physical as we need to be.”
Lehtonen had a kick save near the end of the first power play in the final minute of the first period. That came right before Benn came out of the penalty box and skated toward the other end.
Trevor Daley, the only Stars player left from their last playoff team in 2008, passed to Shawn Horcoff, who shot. The ricochet was knocked into the net by Benn with 35 seconds left in the first period to put the Stars ahead to stay.
“We look to shut them down, you know to get under their skin,” Daley said.
Benn had been penalized for hooking right after Daley was having words with Getzlaf. The back-and-forth with Daley and Getzlaf carried into the second period, and they had to be separated in the opening minute — just before an eerie replay for Ducks defenseman Stephane Robidas when he broke his right leg again.
Robidas had to be helped off the ice after his leg bent awkwardly when a sliding Ryan Garbutt of Dallas undercut him. The team said the latest fracture was just above the one he sustained Nov. 29 while with Dallas. He didn’t play again until being traded to Anaheim last month.
“It’s a huge loss because he was playing great,” Boudreau said. “And of course I think all the guys on the bench felt extremely bad for him. I mean, here’s your teammate who’s just fought his way back from a broken leg.”
Fans cheered for the 37-year-old Robidas, chanting “Robi, Robi!” as he left the ice before being transported to a hospital.
Nichushkin scored on a one-timer through the legs of Frederik Andersen, the rookie goalie who stopped 66 of 71 shots in Anaheim. Andersen faced only 22 shots in Game 3.
Garbutt added a goal in the third period.
NOTES: The game came exactly six weeks after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the home bench because of an irregular heartbeat against Columbus, and later underwent corrective surgery. There was a huge cheer when he was shown during a video that was part of the pregame production. … It was a record crowd of 19,120 at the American Airlines Center, breaking the mark set when Mike Modano’s No. 9 jersey was retired last month.