St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer (36) and Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel (21) fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero
December 27, 2015

DALLAS (AP) Kari Lehtonen returned to form on Sunday night.

Playing for the first time since he was pulled from a game after less than 9 minutes, the Dallas goalie made 22 saves for his 33rd career shutout and his third this season, and the Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0.

Coach Lindy Ruff had pulled Lehtonen after he gave up two goals on four shots at Minnesota on Dec. 21, but had no problem starting him on Sunday.

''We've got four games in six nights. Kari obviously had a couple struggles, but he's played good hockey for us,'' Ruff said. ''There's going to be bumps in the road along that way. But I think his answer tonight was the answer we were all looking for.''

Jamie Benn scored his NHL-leading 23rd goal. Benn and Patrick Sharp each had a power-play goal and an assist. Cody Eakin scored into an empty net with 1:32 remaining.

The victory avenged Dallas' 3-2 shootout loss to the Blues in St. Louis on Saturday night. The Stars have a league-best 57 points, and Dallas and Washington are the only teams that have not lost consecutive games this season.

St. Louis, second to Dallas with 48 points, had won the previous four games between the teams.

''We seem to be doing well against them at home,'' Lehtonen said, ''and they seem to outplay us in their building. Every game is tough. At the same time, it's exciting.''

Lehtonen improved his season record to 12-2-0. He is 13-6-2 in his career against the Blues.

Sharp pushed in his own rebound with 1:57 left in the first period. Just 40 seconds into the third, Benn took a pass from Sharp and beat Brian Elliott.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he thought Benn had cross-checked Jay Bouwmeester to get open in the slot.

''The one that really hurt us was the second goal. (Bouwmeester) was playing the front of the net, gets cross-checked from behind and the guy that cross-checks from behind scores a goal.''

The game was played with only one referee, Rob Martell, because Brad Meier had travel issues that kept him from reaching rain-soaked Dallas.

''If they call penalties both ways then yeah, for sure (Benn) did (cross-check),'' Bouwmeester said, ''but I mean one ref tonight.''

The game featured two fights in the first 7 seconds of the second period and a total of 38 penalty minutes. First, Dallas' Antoine Roussel and St. Louis' Troy Brouwer tussled. Next, the Stars' Travis Moen took on Robert Bortuzzo, who had been penalized for slashing Benn late in the first.

''I thought the job that Roussel and Moen did was as key as anything, after the butt end to Benn,'' Ruff said, ''and I thought the fact that (Tyler) Seguin jumped in right away for his winger was impressive.''

The Stars outshot St. Louis 38-22. Elliott made 35 saves.

''The part that disappoints everybody here,'' Hitchcock said, ''is (Elliott) battled like crazy, he made great saves, he kept us right there and we couldn't get a goal for him.''

Lehtonen's toughest stretch came late in the second period, when he stopped hard shots by Alexander Steen and Colton Parayko.

''I was able to make one good glove save on Steen, and right after that their defenseman I was able to make another glove save,'' Lehtonen said. ''At that point of the game, being 1-0, they were important.''

NOTES: The teams had totaled only 10 penalty minutes on Saturday night. ... Benn and the Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko entered the game tied for the NHL lead with 22 goals. Then they tied up in front of the benches and went off for roughing at 5:55 of the first period. Benn has 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 19 home games. ... Sharp's goal extended his point streak to five games. He has had one assist in each game. ... Los Angeles Dodgers Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw, from Dallas, dropped the ceremonial first puck.

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