March 17, 2010
On paper it was a tall order, a starting assignment against the potent San Jose Sharks, but Lehtonen was up to the task, turning aside 45 of 47 shots as the Stars rolled to a surprising 8-2 rout. Don't let the final score throw you; San Jose threw constant pressure at Lehtonen, and the importance of his work, especially early, should not be understated. Marc Crawford has already given Lehtonen the starting assignment for Thursday's match against Philadelphia, and if Lehtonen can establish any momentum down the stretch, it could be the final push that gets Marty Turco(notes) out of town. If you'd like to see some video evidence of Lehtonen's fine play, check out this dazzling toe save on Dany Heatley.
It's been yet another rebuilding year on the Island, but maybe things are finally starting to turn around; New York bagged its third straight victory Tuesday, a 5-2 victory at Vancouver. Tavares was the undisputed star of the evening, scoring twice (one an empty-netter) and handing out three assists, including this nifty no-look effort on Matt Moulson's tally. Tavares has a long way to go in the consistency department – he had just two points over eight games entering Tuesday's play – but for one evening at least, we could see the potential and imagine what's possible down the road.
Mueller's career just about flatlined during his final days in Phoenix, but the Avalanche took a flyer on him at the trade deadline and they've been immediately rewarded over the last few weeks. Mueller rolled up two goals and an assist in Tuesday's 5-3 victory at St. Louis, upping his production to 4-7-11 since he joined Colorado seven games ago. Mueller looks as good on film as he does on the stat sheet; his first goal came on a one-timed blast from the left point, while his second marker was a quick-release shot from the left slot. Don't forget the kid is still just 21, and he was the eighth overall pick from the 2006 draft.
Honorable Mention: Tuukka Rask(notes) stopped 30 of 32 shots as the Bruins downed Carolina and held onto eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. … Niclas Bergfors(notes) handed out three assists to spark the Thrashers over Buffalo. He's got a 6-5-11 line since he joined the club 14 games ago. … Jaroslav Halak(notes) picked the right time to get hot; he's got six straight wins as the Habs look to get into playoff shape. He faced a modest 20 shots in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Rangers. … Phoenix also has six straight wins. Ilya Bryzgalov led the way over Tampa, kicking out 27 of 28 shots. … No Alex Ovechkin(notes), no problem; the Capitals got scores from six different men in a 7-3 victory at Florida. The underrated Brooks Laich(notes) (2-1-3) got the best of it, with help from Brendan Morrison(notes) (1-2-3). … Mike Weaver(notes) and Darcy Tucker(notes) had perhaps the best fight of the night, exchanging a series of haymakers late in the first period at St. Louis.
Dan Boyle(notes) was one of the few Sharks that earned his check Tuesday. He fired eight shots on goal and had one of the two San Jose markers. … Toronto's 4-1 upset at Ottawa came courtesy of The Monster, as Jonas Gustavsson(notes) turned aside 30 of 31 shots. The enigmatic Phil Kessel(notes) also made an impact (goal, seven shots). … Martin Erat(notes) had a regulation goal and the shootout clincher (beautiful deke and shot) as Nashville got past Philadelphia 4-3, making a winner of Pekka Rinne(notes) (42 stops, plus a perfect shootout). … Long-forgotten Chuck Kobasew(notes) came through with the game winner as the Wild held off pesky Edmonton. Sam Gagne had two assists and four shots on goal for the Oilers. … Brandon Morrow (2-2-4) and Mike Ribeiro(notes) (2-2-4) shined in Dallas's eight-goal laugher, and Brad Richards(notes) chipped in with a power-play goal and two assists.
Dishonorable Mention: It was a nightmare evening for Olympic goaltenders, as four of the best keepers in the world were yanked from the pipes and a fifth one struggled in relief. Ryan Miller's(notes) outing was the most stunning of the group; the Thrashers put three quick goals past him on just five shots, focing a move. The Sabres have just one victory in their last 11 road games. … Tomas Vokoun(notes) was chased in Florida after the Capitals scored five times on 21 shots. … Roberto Luongo's(notes) four-game winning streak died a quick death against the Islanders, who tallied four times on 12 attempts. … Evgeni Nabokov(notes) was beaten on four of 17 shots in Dallas; two of the goals were his fault, two weren't. Things weren't any better after he left, as the Stars pumped four goals past Thomas Greiss(notes) on just 14 attempts. … Dallas rolled up eight goals but not everyone got in on the fun; a pair of consistent scorers (Jamie Benn(notes), James Neal(notes)) wound up pointless for the evening. Sometimes this fantasy hockey racket is a cruel game. … Michael Leighton(notes) was forced out at Nashville due to a high-ankle sprain (MRI to come), but his pride took a bruising as well (two goals on just five shots). Brian Boucher(notes) played the rest of the way and stopped 24 of 25. … Sean Avery(notes) was ejected at MSG after slashing Scott Gomez(notes) on the leg. … Home ice didn't matter too much over Tuesday's slate; the host clubs won just four of the 11 games played.