Stars, Kings jockey for position in Pacific
STARS (14-8-9) at KINGS (20-10-3)
-- Dallas 5-2-3, Los Angeles 7-2-1
-- This will be the third game between the two teams this year, the first a one-sided 4-1 Kings win in Dallas on Oct. 19. The second followed what seems to be a recurring pattern for Pacific Division teams lately. Three days after the first meeting, it was a case of the Kings wasting Anze Kopitar's first career hat trick and blowing a three-goal lead in the third but unlike some of their rivals, they pulled out the extra point in overtime, 5-4.
-- It's a stretch where the Pacific Division teams see a lot of each other. For both teams, it's their third straight game against a divisional rival, and for the Stars, their fourth in five games. The Kings got a short respite after one of the tougher back-to backs anyone can face, at San Jose and home against a red-hot Coyotes team. They found ways to win both. The Stars didn't have it any easier with an overtime loss in Anaheim and an 11-round shootout win in San Jose.
-- The Stars have only two shootout wins this season and both came in San Jose. Thank the goaltending for the drama of this most recent one. Both Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov kept turning away shots until Matt Niskanen
roofed one over Nabokov's shoulder to seal the win in the 11th round, matching the longest shootouts in the NHL this season, 3-2 in Dallas' favor.
''We were starting to run out of guys,'' Niskanen said. ''We were starting to look down at the end of the bench. (Nabokov) was coming out pretty far and so I put a move on him and got very lucky. It the first time I've ever done it. I came at him with a lot of speed and snapped it. As defensemen, we always joke around that we'll be the last used in a shootout.''
-- They could have folded against the Coyotes and it would have been understandable. Not only did they beat the top team in the Western Conference in their home building the night before, but they ended long-term goal droughts from three different players, Teddy Purcell at 27 games, Anze Kopitar at 13 games and Dustin Brown at 14, his deciding the game in OT. To say that multiple monkeys jumped off of backs might have been an understatement.
"It feels like the whole zoo came out," Purcell said.
Then they went and did it again against a Phoenix team that had won five in a row. Again, they blew a two-goal lead, but came back to get the extra point in the shootout, 3-2. The win made them the first NHL team to win 20 games this season, which has them two points behind San Jose for most points in the Western Conference, gave them a 14-0 record when leading after two periods and a 10-1-3 record in one-goal games.
Still, not being able to put teams away in regulation raises some questions.
"We just want to make it more exciting for the fans," Kings center Anze Kopitar said to the Los Angeles Times, before laughing and saying he was joking.
"We blew it a couple times already, but the points are two points. It's not like we wanted to give that one away. We'll definitely take the two. We'll build on that and next time we'll go for two points in regulation."
-- As quiet as Brown had been in the goal column, the young winger still managed five assists over his last six games. Jarrett Stoll didn't score in the Phoenix game, but kept a six-game point streak going.
-- Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins
(lacerated finger) was cleared to play Friday and participated in the Sharks game, but forward Brian Sutherby
(groin) is still out. Kings forward Brandon Segal
(lower body) remains on IR.
-- At eight rounds, Thursday's shootout with the Coyotes was the longest ever for the Kings franchise. Their 43 points matches their best 33-game start in franchise history, equaling their 21-11-1 mark in 1988-89. Most notably, though, they're 8-1-1 this year against Pacific Division rivals, 6-1-1 against Dallas since the the start of last season.
-- Divisional games are always a challenge and an opportunity at the same time, and while the Stars have something to celebrate with the win in San Jose, they'll still need to do everything they can to keep up with the leaders in the Pacific Division.