For the first time in 10 meetings against the Kings, the Stars were unable to escape with a victory, as the Kings defeated the Stars 2-1 Thursday night at the Staples Center.
With smoke in the air from all the wild fires still burning in southern California, the Kings outlasted the Stars for the first time since April 2006. The Stars won all eight meetings between the Pacific Division rivals last season, and then again 5-1 on Oct. 10 at the American Airlines Center, outscoring Los Angeles 35-17 over those nine games.
But a third period goal from Alexander Frolov snapped a 1-1 tie and Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera made 29 saves to drop the Stars to 4-3-2 on the season, including 1-3-1 on the road.
Jere Lehtinen scored the only goal for the Stars. Despite the loss, Marty Turco was outstanding in the crease once again, making 28 saves, including 18 in the second period, when the Kings took over control of the contest.
“We had a good start but it was the second period that came back to haunt us,” Turco said. “It’s very disheartening to lose a game like that because we should know better. It’s our fault for not grabbing that momentum back from them after they took it in the second period.”
For the second consecutive game, the newly-constituted line of Lehtinen with captain Brenden Morrow, who skated in his 500th NHL game, and Mike Ribeiro led the way for the Stars offensively, accounting for eight shots on goal and the only goal. But they were unable to convert on the power play, which went 0-for-4 on the night, including two late in the third period that could have made the difference in a one-goal game.
“We went back and forth and it was about who was going to score that goal and the Kings got that one tonight,” said Stars defenseman Mattias Norstrom, the former LA captain who returned to the Staples Center for just the second time since being traded last February. “We knew when it was 1-1 that whoever scored that next goal was going to have a big advantage.”
With Dallas fortunate to be tied 1-1 after two periods, the Kings finally took the lead early in the third on Frolov’s third goal of the season just 1:40 in. Derek Armstrong slid a no-look, behind-the-back pass out of the right corner to Frolov cutting through the right face-off circle, and the Russian winger blasted a one-timer past Turco to give the Kings the 2-1 lead.
The Stars responded with a dominant shift by the Lehtinen-Morrow-Ribeiro line, highlighted by Morrow’s chance just 35 seconds after the LA goal. Morrow carried out from behind the net and backhanded a shot that LaBarbera stopped, generating a rebound that squirted out to Lehtinen at the lip of the crease, but a prone LaBarbera turned that shot aside too.
Then about three and a half minutes later, Sergei Zubov skated through multiple King defenders and into the slot, then ripped a wrist shot that grazed LaBarbera’s arm and pinged off the far post. Ribeiro swatted at the rebound just to the right of the crease, but LaBarbera made the pad stop.
Midway through the period, Morrow passed out of the right corner to find Trevor Daley breaking into the left circle, but LaBarbera made the save on Daley’s snap shot.
Then about 30 seconds later, LA raced into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1. Dustin Brown carried down the left side, decided not to pass to Anze Kopitar and whipped a wrist shot that Turco smothered.
The Kings had another chance with about seven minutes left when rookie defenseman Jack Johnson boomed a slap shot from the blue line that Turco kicked out, but the rebound went right to Kopitar cutting across the top of the crease. Lehtinen displayed some of his defensive skills that have won him three Selke Trophies as he managed to force Kopitar wide around Turco and past the goal line to the left of the net before Kopitar could fire a shot back in front that Turco smothered.
Dallas went on the power play with 5:54 to go, but although they controlled the puck in the Kings’ zone for virtually the entire two minutes, they were unable to get the equalizer. The Stars even enjoyed a brief, three-second 5-on-3 when Rob Blake was whistled for charging with 3:57 left.
As they continued to press, the Stars’ best opportunity during the second man-advantage came with 3:29 to go in regulation when Jussi Jokinen passed out of the right corner to Antti Miettinen in the slot. Miettinen’s one-timer slipped through the sliding LaBarbera’s pads and just wide of the post.
Unfortunately, as the Blake penalty expired, Ribeiro was called for hooking with 1:54 remaining, and that effectively killed any chance of a Dallas comeback. The Stars did manage to pull Turco with 22 seconds left, but could not sustain any pressure in the LA zone.
“We had a lot of chances to tie the game and we also had some opportunities to take a 2-0 lead in the second, especially on the power play,” Ribeiro said. “There are no excuses but it’s a game of momentum and they took that momentum from us in the second. It’s tough to lose a game like that, especially because we had the chance to go up 2-0 and to tie it 2-2 in the third, but didn’t get it done.”
Entering the second leading 1-0, Dallas had to fend off some intense LA pressure early in the period. Less than two minutes in, Turco first made a big stop on Brown’s wrist shot from the slot off the rush, snagging it in his glove.
After Michal Handzus won the ensuing face-off, Tom Preissing whipped a wrist shot from the right sideboards that Turco managed to stop, but the puck got loose behind him. John Zeiler charged the crease to poke it loose, but Turco stood his ground until the net was dislodged.
After LA killed off a Dallas power play later in the period, they managed to even the score at the 10:00 mark on Brian Willsie’s first goal of the season. Kyle Calder fed Michael Cammalleri, the NHL’s goal-scoring leader with 10, for a one-timer from the left circle, but Turco made the save. Willsie picked up the rebound in front, and swept the puck wide around Turco’s poke-check attempt and in.
Less than 30 seconds later, the rejuvenated Kings almost connected again, but Turco denied Handzus’ stuff attempt at the right side of the net, after he came out from behind the net.
About two minutes later with each team skating four aside, Frolov slid a pass out of the left corner to Cammalleri again in the left circle, and again, Turco made the stop on his one-timer.
Turco’s biggest save in the game came with about five minutes left in the second, making a larcenous kick save on Patrick O’Sullivan’s fierce one-timer from the slot off a nice backhand pass from Willsie. Turco also kept his composure to smother the in-close rebound from Calder.
When the Kings went on the power play late in the frame, Turco again came up big. With 1:49 to go, Kopitar ripped a one-timer from the right circle, and Turco made the stop and then turned aside Cammalleri’s point-blank rebound attempt as well.
Then, less than 10 seconds later, Kopitar launched another hard shot from the right circle, a wrister that Turco again denied
All in all, the Kings outshot Dallas 19-6 in the second period, and many of them were tough saves for Turco.
“We got a good road start and did a lot of good things,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “In the second period we started turning over the puck, took some penalties and they took the momentum and we couldn’t get it back. When there are certain plays that need to be made and aren’t made, that leads to chances against.”
“I don’t want to take anything away from the Kings tonight, but in the second period there were too many sloppy plays from us,” Norstrom added. “If we clean that up, we’ll be just fine.”
After four days off and playing just their second game in nine days, the Stars looked a little tentative offensively early in the contest, but picked it up later in the first period, eventually outshooting the Kings 11-6.
Turco made the first big saves of the contest about midway through the first period when he turned aside Frolov’s spinning backhander from the right circle, and then came up with an even better stop on O’Sullivan’s in-close rebound shot at the side of the net.
Turco then made a nice stop on Armstrong’s wrist shot through a screen from the left circle with about seven minutes left.
Lehtinen then connected for his second goal in as many games to open the scoring at the 16:05 mark. Morrow had the puck behind the LA net and, like linemate Ribeiro often does, waited until Lehtinen got open in the slot, then slid a pass through to him. Lehtinen’s one-timer zinged past LaBarbera’s blocker for the 1-0 lead.
The Stars gained the momentum after that, and had another golden opportunity to score about two minutes later. Niklas Hagman broke into the Kings’ zone down the right side and although he had room to shoot, slid a cross-ice backhand pass over to Jokinen, whose shot went just wide, ricocheting off the side of the goal.
Then, with 24 seconds to go in the first, Philippe Boucher drilled a one-timer from the top of the right circle, off a nice pass out of the corner by Morrow, but LaBarbera made the stop.
The Stars play their third straight Pacific Division game by traveling on to Phoenix to play the Coyotes on Saturday (9 pm, my27) for their first set of back-to-back road contests this season.
- Ribeiro extended his point streak to four games (one goal, four assists) with his assist on Lehtinen’s goal.
- While Morrow failed to score a goal for the first time in four games, he did register an assist to give him a four-game point streak (three goals, one assist). He also logged 21:50 of ice time, more than any forward on either team.
- Boucher led all players on either team with six shots on goal. He also skated 25:05, second only to Zubov’s 27:26 on the Stars.
- Despite playing just 8:42, center Steve Ott led the Stars with five hits.
- Center Jeff Halpern was an impressive 12-6 in the face-off circle.
- Turco surpassed former North Star Jon Casey for third place on the franchise’s all-time games played list for goaltenders, suiting up for the 326th time in a Stars jersey. Next on the list is Gilles Meloche at 328. Turco already owns the club records for victories (177) and shutouts (30).
- The Stars led 1-0 after the first period, giving them an unbelievable 15-2 edge in first periods over their last 10 games against the Kings.
- This was the second of four straight Pacific Division matchups for the Stars, in a stretch that sees them battle divisional opponents in 10-of-11 games. After beating the Ducks 3-1 last Saturday, they are now 1-1 in those contests.