LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter tweaked his lineup Saturday in order to shake up his team's latest 5-on-5 scoring issues. Newly acquired left wing Matt Frattin and his zero goals were scratched in favor of newly acquired tough guy Daniel Carcillo.
It turned out all Sutter needed was his team's veteran core to show why they're the veteran core.
Justin Williams scored twice in a span of 3:01 in the first period and assisted on Drew Doughty's game-winning goal in the third to lead the Kings to a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars at Staples Center to open long a homestand.
Since the Stanley Cup season, the Kings have increasingly talked about their confidence winning tight games, and Saturday was no different with a 2-2 score going into the third.
"What we need to do is create an identity again on ice," Williams said. "You need to do it every year. Whether it's a tie game going into the third [or] you're down a goal, you need to feel like you're going to win, and tonight I felt in this dressing room at the end of the second period that we were confident we were going to win."
Doughty's first goal since opening night finished off a strong game by Williams, who found a pinching Doughty on the right side. Doughty's initial shot slipped through Dallas goalie Dan Ellis' legs at 4:42 to break the 2-2 tie. Kyle Clifford later scored on a wrist shot for his first goal this season, and Matt Greene scored an empty-netter.
The three even-strength goals were welcome for L.A., which scored six goals total in regulation and overtime during a four-game road trip yet went 3-1. The Kings still have no goals from their centers, notably Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, but Kopitar had three assists.
"If you asked me that in August, I'd say that would have been unusual," Sutter said. "Not much I can do about it now.
"Mike and Kopi have been really good for us every game. And [Colin Fraser] goes back in as a centerman and does a (heck) of a job. I know everything's about -- from your side – it's about goals. But, it's not. It's about winning hockey games."
Similarly offensive-challenged Dallas dropped the opening game of its back-to-back Southern California swing. The Stars' power play largely struggled against the Kings' No.2-ranked penalty unit and went 0-for-5.
But, Dallas was in this game late.
Jamie Benn's terrific work down low led to a 2-2 tie in the second. Benn beat Jeff Carter on a faceoff to the right of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, then beat Carter to the puck behind the net for a wraparound attempt that Rich Peverley tapped home.
Dallas was mostly frustrated watching a potential road win slip away in the third. The Stars committed six giveaways in the final period. The Kings had five giveaways.
"It's getting pretty sickening to all of us," Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. "We're just kind of giving teams wins, and the last 20 minutes there has got to be a lot better than it was tonight. But credit to them. They're a good, physical team and they competed well tonight."
L.A. could have put the game away early in the second, but Richards and Carter were stopped on breakaways by Ellis. Richards' active stick led to both chances – he made a takeaway of Jordie Benn and another steal in the Stars' end to spring Carter.
Williams' second goal of the night ended the Kings' four-game power-play slump (0-for-13). It came on a backhand past a sprawled Ellis at 19:32 with Stephane Robidas in the penalty box for interference.
Williams tied it at 1-1 by going to the net for Jake Muzzin's shot to bank in off his skate at 16:31. Dustin Brown triggered the sequence when he kept in Robidas' clearing attempt.
"I think tonight you could almost find every defenseman that coughed one up in different situations," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "And we had some forwards that coughed it up. There are times when you can use the middle of the ice, and there are times when you've got to keep it up the walls."
The Kings didn't make it a point to get Williams the puck with the empty net. Williams has only one career hat trick, and he admitted it crept into his mind.
"It's funny when you get one early, things seem to slow a little bit down for you and you start making a few more plays," Williams said. "Of course, I certainly wanted to get that third one. I wanted to see the ice littered with hats."
Los Angeles hardly looked like a weary team 48 hours removed from a four-game road trip, but Dallas withstood its opening energy and scored first on Seguin's team-leading fourth goal. Seguin brought the puck across the L.A. blue line, gave it to Jamie Benn and went to the net to redirect Benn's shot.
Dallas put 29 shots on goal, but didn't think it made Quick work hard enough.
"There's times that I think we could have been better," Peverley said. "But, we did have some traffic. He likes to challenge the shots, so we've got to keep it in the paint and I don't think we did it enough tonight. If he sees it, he saves it."
Doughty's 13th game-winning goal tied Steve Duchesne for second all-time among Kings defensemen.