With his team stumbling and bumbling through one of their worst months in over a decade, Marty Turco thought Saturday's game against the Kings was going to be the biggest of his and his teammate's careers. They made good on their goalie's premonition.
Loui Eriksson scored twice in a game-breaking, four-goal second period outburst, and Turco made 12 saves to give Dallas a much-needed 7-2 win over Los Angeles at Staples Center. Stephane Robidas had a goal and two assists, Stu Barnes, Brenden Morrow, Jere Lehtinen and Niklas Hagman had a goal each, and Mike Ribeiro handed out three assists for the Stars, who snapped a five-game winless streak to win for just the second time in the last 10 games.
Dallas also closed to within one win of clinching a postseason berth while inching closer to fourth-place Anaheim in the race for home-ice advantage in the first-round of the playoffs. The Stars are now four points behind the Ducks, who they face in a key Sunday night matchup, with a game in hand.
But before Sunday's pivotal contest in Anaheim, the Stars can enjoy a game in which they started slow but finished like gangbusters in toying with a Kings team that is tied with Tampa Bay for worst in the league. Despite giving up the first goal on the game's first shot, and then not registering their own first shot until eight minutes were left in the first period, the Stars steamrolled the Kings to locate what has been tough to find lately -- the win column.
"We needed these points and we need to build on this heading into tomorrow," Eriksson said. "We had some good bounces and big goals today. We needed this one."
"We know what we can do," Turco added. "It's that time to lay it on the line."
Lay it on the line they did. With the game knotted at 1, Barnes made sure of it by beginning the second-period barrage with a goal just 16 seconds in. By the time Eriksson had scored his second of the stanza with just over six minutes to go, it was all but over.
"We needed to have a good game," Robidas said. "We took a step forward against the hottest team in the league in San Jose and we built on that again today. It's a team game and everybody chipped in today."
Fittingly, the Stars regained control of their disappointing March in the second period of Saturday's matinee. Dallas came in as the best team in the league in the middle frame, and in their eight-game season series with the Kings ended with a 14-4 positive margin in goals scored.
And unlike last Saturday's third-period meltdown that saw Los Angeles earn a 4-2 win with three final-period tallies, the Stars made sure there wasn't going to be another 20-minute collapse, with Lehtinen and Hagman scoring third-period goals to cap the decisive victory.
Turco, making his 12th consecutive appearance, stood tall after he let in Kevin Dallman's goal six minutes in.
"In the second period we had a good start and the power play was really good from there," Ribeiro said. "The penalty kill had another good game for us, too. The San Jose game was an overall good game for us and we knew how we had to play today. We had to push all the way through."
Along with a relentless forecheck, the Stars used a potent power play that had been in need of some jet fuel. Dallas had converted on only five of its past 41 man advantage chances (11 percent) coming in, but cashed in on 3-of-7 power-play attempts against the flustered Kings.
"Our power play was good, and I thought we started the game well and then carried it right on through," coach Dave Tippett said. "Today we were a very determined team. We created some breaks, capitalized on some chances, and made some breaks for ourselves. We need to build on that and play like this again tomorrow."
Mike Cammalleri scored in the third period for the Kings, who had won three of their past four. Los Angeles rookie goalie Erik Ersberg allowed five goals on 25 shots before being lifted at the start of the third period in favor of fellow rookie Daniel Taylor, who made his NHL debut. Taylor made eight saves.
"It's fun to score, but the most important thing is getting the win," said Robidas, whose three points tied his season high. "The power play, the penalty kill, Marty making some big saves…everything was good."
With the game tied at 1 after the first period, Barnes gave Dallas its first lead with his 11th of the year. Skating down the left wing, Barnes' pass to Steve Ott at the top of the crease went off Dallman's left skate and into the net.
Morrow made it 3-1 on the power play with his team-leading 31st of the year at 6:15, banging home a rebound at the doorstep after Ersberg stopped Robidas' initial shot from the left point.
Eriksson continued the second-period onslaught with his 13th of the year -- and first in 10 games -- four minutes later, capitalizing on another power-play opportunity after Scott Thornton was whistled for a double-minor for high sticking Brad Richards. Eriksson neatly chipped in Richards' short pass from in tight.
Eriksson then netted his second of the game three minutes later to give the Stars a commanding 5-1 edge. Off the faceoff in the right circle, Eriksson drifted through the slot before lifting the puck over a sprawled Ersberg.
"I had a really good chance at the hat trick, but maybe it will happen another time," Eriksson said.
Los Angles opened the scoring at 6:09, as Dallman notched his third of the year off a mini 2-on-1 break in the Stars zone. Barreling to the net with defenseman Matt Niskanen on his tail, Dallman was able to re-direct Dustin Brown's cross-ice pass from the left circle.
Robidas got the equalizer on the power play with his eighth with just over six minutes to go in the opening stanza. After accepting Ribeiro's soft pass from behind the net, Robidas snapped off a quick shot from a sharp angle to the left of Ersberg that went in on the short side.
Brown nearly gave Los Angeles the lead late in the first when he went in alone on Turco on the power play, but after making his deke he lifted the puck over the net.
Now it's off to Anaheim for the key Sunday night contest that starts at 7 p.m. (FSN). It will be the eighth and final meeting with the Ducks, who could wind up being the Stars' first-round playoff opponent.
--Morrow extended his goal-scoring streak to four games, and now has 12 goals on the power play.
--Brad Richards earned his 500th career NHL point with a pair of assists.
--Ribeiro registered his 200th career NHL assist on Lehtinen's goal, and he's now got points in five of the past six games.
--B.J. Crombeen picked up his first career NHL point on Hagman's goal.
--Lehtinen added an assist on Robidas' goal.
--The Stars killed off all five of the Kings power plays.
--Dallas came in having scored just 17 goals in its previous nine games.
--Dallas and Los Angeles split the eight-game season series.
--Defenseman Mattias Norstrom had two assists, and is one game shy of 900 in his NHL career.
--Dallas finished 12-for-35 (26 percent) on the power play in eight games against the Kings this year.
--It was the third time the Stars have scored seven or more goals in a game this season.