There was no letdown, or meltdown, this time around for the Dallas Stars.
Nine days after blowing a four-goal, third-period lead to the Kings in Los Angeles, the Stars used a scintillating 22-save performance from goalie Mike Smith to earn a hard-fought 3-0 win over the Kings at American Airlines Center on Monday night.
Smith picked up his first shutout of the season, and fourth of his career, and Steve Ott, Niklas Hagman and Jere Lehtinen scored for the Stars, who have now won two straight after losing three in a row, including a bitter 6-5 overtime loss to the Kings at Staples Center just over a week ago.
"It kind of felt like a funny game," coach Dave Tippett said. "They had shots on goal but they weren't really getting great chances. We got better as we went along and played a solid third period."
The win was also Dallas' sixth straight at home against the Kings, and helped moved it to within one-point of second place Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
"The team really is playing well right now," said Smith, who helped preserve the blanking with a sparkling save on Ladislav Nagy on a 2-on-1 with eight minutes left in regulation and the game still tied 1-1. "This was another big win for us. Everyone is doing their job, and it's a 20-man effort."
Smith has made 39 saves in his two straight starts in relief of Marty Turco, beginning with Friday's win over Colorado.
"Smitty played well tonight," Tippett said. "He's done what he's supposed to do. It gives us some stability at that position and we'll go day by day who's gonna go."
Smith deferred the credit to his teammates.
"You can't say enough about how well the boys played in front of me," he said. "I've been practicing hard and keeping myself fresh for when my chances come."
With a one-goal advantage heading into the third period, the solid goaltending of Smith and a couple of timely goals by Hagman and Lehtinen sent the reeling Kings to their fourth straight loss. Los Angeles has the third-fewest points in the Western Conference.
"I didn't think we played too well in the first, but as the game went along we began to take the momentum," Hagman said. "I think it was good to play the way we did in the third, especially remembering what happened last game against these guys."
For the Stars, it was another much-needed win in a game that looked more like the ones that were so prevalent back before the lockout in 2004. Through the majority of the first two periods the Kings were content on hanging back in the neutral zone, and didn't allow the Stars offense to gather much momentum.
That all changed late in the second when Dallas' power-play unit ramped up the offensive chances, with Ott cashing in on a Los Angeles giveaway shortly after the conclusion of the Stars' first man-advantage opportunity.
Both teams were held at bay for the first 38 minutes, 37 seconds before Ott snapped the scoreless tie with his second of the year. Los Angeles defenseman Brad Stuart's clearing attempt was intercepted by Loui Eriksson 10 feet from the Kings' blueline, and Eriksson twirled around and sent the puck towards the Los Angeles net.
Skating in from the right boards, Ott deftly deflected Eriksson's shot between Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera's pads to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
The goal came a couple of minutes after Los Angeles forward Michal Handzus was whistled for tripping with 4:30 left in the middle frame. Though the Stars weren't able to capitalize, they registered three shots on goal and seemed to get energized.
Defenseman Sergei Zubov nearly gave Dallas the lead during the power play, but his blistering shot from the left point rang off the goal post.
Hagman gave the Stars some insurance when he notched his team-leading ninth of the season with just under seven minutes left in regulation. After another Stuart turnover, Stephane Robidas sprung Hagman with a long pass that sent the forward in alone on LaBarbera. Hagman promptly deposited the puck into the top-right corner with a nifty wrist shot.
"I seem to have that confidence right now with the breakaways," he said. "I don't think the goalies know what I'm going to do. This one, I just wanted to rip it and get it glove side."
Lehtinen capped the scoring two minutes later with his sixth of the year, converting Mike Ribeiro's pass from behind the net with a one-timer from in tight.
"It's nice to get some momentum going and coming to the rink excited and with a lot of emotion," Ott said.
The Stars continue their season-long five-game homestand on Wednesday when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks at 7:30 (my27) on Mike Modano Tribute Night (click for tickets). The organization will honor the highest-scoring American-born player with a pre-game ceremony that will include several special guests. Fans are encouraged to arrive early.
It will also be the third meeting between the two division rivals, with Dallas winning both of the previous two games by a score of 8-1. Marty Turco recorded his 31st career shutout in the Stars 5-0 win over the Ducks in Anaheim earlier this month.
Anaheim has been surging as of late, and will come to American Airlines Center having won four straight, including a 2-1 shootout win over San Jose on Saturday night. The Ducks are 6-1-1 during the month of November.
"Our schedule moving ahead is tough," Tippett said. "We have a lot of games, so we need everyone on board, including both goalies."
-- The Stars obtained defenseman Bryce Lampman from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Mario Scalzo on Monday. Lampman was immediately sent to Iowa of the AHL. In 16 games with Norfolk of the AHL this season, Lampman had six points and four penalty minutes. Scalzo was signed as a free agent in Aug. 2005 and had spent the last two years in Iowa.
-- With his father in attendance, the feisty Ott scored just his 12th career goal. "He's been here for probably over half of my goals," the junior Ott said. "I just had a lucky little deflection that put us up early in a tight defensive game."
-- Dallas has points in each of the last four games (2-0-2).
-- Mike Smith earned his first shutout of the season and the fourth of his career, stopping all 22 shots he faced. It marked his fourth win of the season.
-- Steve Ott’s goal was his second of the season and 12th goal of his career.
-- Loui Eriksson’s assist (Ott) was his second of the season and first point since Opening Night in Colorado (Oct. 3).
-- Jere Lehtinen’s goal gives him a new career-high for point streak at seven-straight (3-8-11 pts).
-- Niklas Hagman’s goal was his ninth of the season (in his 20th game). He scored his ninth goal of the season last year on Jan. 11 vs. Anaheim (in his 45th game). Hagman has a three-game point streak (2-1-3 pts).
-- Stephane Robidas’ assist (Hagman) gives him points in three of the last five games (1-3-4 pts).
-- Mike Ribeiro’s assist (Lehtinen) gives him a four-game point streak (2-2-4) and points in 13 of his 17 games on the year (9-11-20 pts).
-- Brenden Morrow’s assist (Lehtinen) gives him a five-game point streak (3-4-7 pts), one game shy of his career-high for point-streak (6 games, set in February, 2000)
-- Dallas has scored on six of its last 10 power-play opportunities over the last four games. "Our special teams have been good, and guys are doing their jobs in those situations," Tippett said.