Kari Lehtonen is like a can of “Flex Seal.”
Y’know Flex Seal.
Flex Seal the miracle in a can that will glue your gutter fix your flowerpots and repair your roof. Flex Seal.
Truth be told Lehtonen is probably closer to 132 cans of Flex Seal for his leaky team. And when they dragged their boat off the trailer with a screen door on the hull Thursday night against Calgary the Stars needed to pretty much spray Lehtonen all over the bottom of this sinking skiff.
The funny thing is it worked. He stopped the gushing water plugged up the holes and allowed the Stars to float in a 5-1 win over the Flames.
The Stars had lost four of the five starts when Lehtonen was sidelined with a lower body injury. Both Dan Ellis and Jack Campbell had moments of brilliance of 10-bell saves but the team simply didn’t play as well in front of the back-ups as they eventually did in front of Lehtonen. There was a confidence in the team Thursday that had been missing a belief built when Lehtonen simply and quietly held the fort during a somewhat frantic first period.
It was an impressive sight. Dallas flopped onto the ice just like they had in recent games and there were immediate problems. Even after rookie Alex Chiasson gave Dallas a 1-0 lead four minutes in the Stars were reeling a bit. Calgary’s dynamic rookie Sean Monahan tried to poke a hole in the Stars’ boat and Michael Cammalleri slammed into the Stars’ zone like wave after threatening wave.
The guess is during this tension-filled interchange you sat there and muttered under your breath “Cammalleri…” the way Jerry mutters “Newman…” during those 2 a.m. viewings of Seinfeld you love so much. Cammalleri had sunk this ship before so you just had to figure he would be the cause of disaster again.
But just like in the commercial for Flex Seal that breaks up your late night viewing Lehtonen held tight. He was the perfect patch _ airtight sturdy dependable. He now sits 3-1-0 on the young season with a 1.41 GAA and .956 save percentage.
And the better he worked the more the Stars trusted their boat. They paddled at full speed and then strapped an outboard on the back and really put it to the test. Three goals in 61 seconds during the second period to break a 1-1 tie…it was almost perfect.
The Stars’ explosion was born of confidence and offensive aggression. While teammates worked the puck down low Alex Chiasson decided to drive the net. It’s what the young rookie does best and while play was focused off to the left of the goal Chiasson came barreling down the slot without the puck. Linemate Ray Whitney found him in stride and Chiasson shoveled a shot past Calgary’s Karri Ramo for a 2-1 lead.
It was Chiasson’s second goal of the game fifth goal of the season and 11th goal in his 16-game NHL career. It was also one of many goals that 41-year-old Whitney has set up for Chiasson. Whitney has become Chiasson’s “Snuggie” so far.
Y’know Snuggie. He’s a warm and cozy security blanket for Chiasson except he’s a warm and fuzzy security blanket with arms that you can wear around the ice and still be free enough to score goals. If you check the Snuggie Store you’ll probably find they’re being issued in Victory Green this season.
“Those two goals were great plays by Whits” Chiasson said. “That first one (where Chiasson was alone in front of Ramo in the first period) I think he was the only one who saw me in the whole building. The second one was just a great pass right on my stick. For me it’s just trying to get better. There’s a lot of great veterans and I’m just trying to learn from them.”
Next came the Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Rich Peverley line. They have been as consistent and cool as the “Chillow” this season _ and they proved it again scoring 18 seconds after Chiasson. The Chillow y’know the water-cooled memory foam pillow that keeps your head cool for hours. The Chillow.
Peverley made the pass this time to Benn and Benn snapped one from the left wing in transition. Benn would also add a second goal in this game (and third of the season) to prove he’s getting more comfortable firing the puck from his new position on the port side.
Finally Brenden Dillon floated in a goal from distance through traffic to make the score 4-1 just 1:01 after Chiasson broke the tie. Shawn Horcoff won a faceoff in the offensive zone and rolled right to the net to set a screen. Dillon sent one through a crowd from the left point and Ramo never saw it.
In a lot of ways it was like the “Pocket Hose.” Y’know the Pocket Hose the retractable garden hose. Too often this season the scoring from defensemen and bottom six forwards has been unable to help the Stars’ offense like a hose falling short of a thirsty begonia. But this play was like the Pocket Hose reaching out past its seeming limitations and then shrinking back to portable size once the job was done.
In fact after the quick strike the Stars did something they have not in previous game _ they started to quietly control play.
While coach Lindy Ruff scratched veteran Alex Goligoski and inserted rookie Kevin Connauton on defense this game the message was intended for the entire defense corps. They had to improve as a group and do a better job protecting the net.
Kari Lehtonen is like a can of “Flex Seal.”