DALLAS - The Stars’ puzzling struggles this season continue.
The Los Angeles Kings jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and held on to defeat the Stars 3-2 Thursday night at the American Airlines Center to sweep a home-and-home series between the Pacific Division rivals.
The Kings, who won a 3-2 shootout decision Tuesday in Los Angeles, won their fourth straight while sending the Stars to their third consecutive loss.
Dallas, now 5-8-3 on the season, is mired in 14th (of 15 teams) in the Western Conference standings and have surrendered the most goals in the conference (60), both surprising figures for a team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last spring.
“It’s always frustrating, especially in the situation we’re in right now,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “We need points bad. We’re really deep in the standings and before the start of the season, we were talking about the Stanley Cup and feeling good after the playoff run last year. We’re far from that and we’re playing nowhere near where we were last year.”
Brad Richards scored a goal and an assist, while Mike Ribeiro also scored. Goaltender Marty Turco was solid in goal, making 26 saves, but it wasn’t enough.
“We just can’t find a way to win right now,” Richards said. “On home ice, tonight was unacceptable, the way we came out in the first period. I’m speechless, how we came out, to get down 2-0. No offense to that team, but we feel like we should be out there dictating the first period, being up 2-0, not being in a hole again. Mental lapses, turnovers, giving up chances, I don’t know why we can’t get it in our heads.”
“We won’t be a very good team until we play together as a team,” Stars coach Dave Tippett added. “We don’t trust each other to get their jobs done. We are too individual right now and there are a lot of different parts here. Our key parts don’t have trust in the group.”
Special teams continued to be an issue, as the Stars, who entered the day with the NHL’s 27th-ranked penalty killing unit, were penalized eight times and surrendered two power play goals. They did score two power play goals of their own, but took little solace from that afterwards.
“We can say it’s a positive thing, but it’s pretty hard to look at positives right now,” Robidas said.
The Kings got on the board first, as Michal Handzus scored on a power play at 9:53 of the opening period, just four seconds after defenseman Philippe Boucher took a seat in the penalty box for hooking. Handzus beat Steve Ott on the ensuing face-off and worked the puck back to the point, where Peter Harrold fired a wrist shot. Handzus, now in front of the net, made a slick deflection out of mid-air to send the puck between Turco’s pads and in.
LA went up by two at 13:11 on Jarret Stoll’s sixth goal of the year. Sean O’Donnell’s shot from the blueline hit Kings forward Alexander Frolov in front, and Stoll pounced on the loose puck and swept it through Turco’s pads.
Richards then capitalized for the Stars on a 5-on-3 advantage to get back to within one with just 21.2 seconds remaining in the first period. Taking a cross-ice feed from Sergei Zubov, Richards boomed a one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle. The puck skimmed off O’Donnell on the way, fooling Kings goalie Erik Ersberg.
The Kings restored their two-goal lead at 3:24 of the second period on defenseman Kyle Quincey’s power play goal. With Handzus screening Turco in front, Quincey’s slap shot from the blue line whizzed past him just inside the far post.
The Stars continued to get into penalty trouble, and with Ribeiro and Toby Petersen in the box, the Kings enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage of their own, for a full 1:51, but the Stars managed to kill it off, thanks to some solid saves by Turco.
“Turks played great, huge 5-on-3 kill for us, that’s usually a momentum-changer,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “We found one but we came up short again.”
Dallas got that one back again with their second power play tally of the game, Ribeiro’s second goal of the season with 5:17 remaining in the second. Richards carried along the left sideboards and fired a wrist shot that Ribeiro, camped right in front, re-directed through Ersberg and in.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Turco made a couple of big saves, denying Brian Boyle’s slap shot from the left circle with 7:05 left and then stopping Tom Preissing’s point-blank shot from the slot with 5:55 to go.
Dallas’ best chances to tie it late came from Sean Avery, who drilled a slap shot from the left circle that Ersberg snagged with his glove with 4:15 remaining, and then Mark Parrish, whose slap shot from 50 feet again forced Ersberg to make a nice glove save with 2:22 left.
The Stars pulled Turco for an extra attacker with 1:06 on the clock, but were unable to mount a serious threat before the final buzzer.
“I thought right to the end that we were going to tie it up,” Richards said. “It’s just no good to come out and be chasing the game like we were. It’s stupid how we came out in the first period.”
“Whatever we did tonight, we didn’t look like that desperate team,” Morrow added. “There’s a lot of pressure on us, it’s coming from all angles and we’re putting most on ourselves. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, we haven’t gotten many breaks, we haven’t earned any. Until we start doing that, we’re just going to keep hovering around last place in our division.”
The Stars go right back on the road, facing off against the Coyotes in Phoenix Saturday night (8 pm, my27), where they will try again to turn things around.
“We have to continue to pound away,” Tippett said. “We have to take the individual stuff out and put the team ahead of everything until we get things straightened out. If we get to the point where they don’t want to do it, we’ll move them out of the lineup.”
- Richards posted his fifth multi-point game of the season and now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last four contests.
- Ribeiro’s goal was his first in eight games. He tied Avery for the team lead in shots on goal with four, while also leading the club with five hits.
- Zubov notched an assist for the second straight game and now has two in the four contests since his return from a hip injury. He once again led the team in ice time, logging 26:05.
- The loss was just the Stars second to the Kings in their last nine visits to the American Airlines Center (7-2-0).
- The power play unit, which entered the day ranked 26th in the league, went 2-for-4 on the night after converting on just 2-for-24 over the previous five games.
1 - 0 LAK
Snap shot -