LOS ANGELES - Well, at least they got a point out of it.
After rallying from a 4-1 third period deficit, the Dallas Stars forced overtime before falling to the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 Thursday night at the STAPLES Center, spoiling an impressive comeback.
The Stars still earn a point in the standings for reaching OT, but have now lost all four of their games this season that have gone past 60 minutes.
The defeat was the Stars’ second to the Kings in the last four days after losing 4-1 at the American Airlines Center Monday night. But unlike in that contest, after falling behind by three goals thanks primarily to Anze Kopitar’s three goals, the Stars battled back to tie it on James Neal’s second goal of the night with 2:46 remaining in regulation.
But LA’s Michal Handzus connected for his fourth goal of the season just 55 seconds into the extra period, taking a drop pass from Ryan Smyth and drilling a slap shot through Stars’ goaltender Alex Auld to give the Kings the victory.
“You never want to put yourself in that position but we did,” Neal said of the three-goal hole Dallas was in. “It shows the character that we have to battle back like that and when you come back like that, any little bounce in OT is going to win it and, unfortunately, they came down early and got one on us. It’s a tough loss, but it was a character comeback for us.”
“I just loved the way that we battled back,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “That’s a big point for us and it’s unfortunate that we didn’t get it all the way. But I think that we learned something tonight as well - if we stick to the habits that are going to allow us to be successful, then I think that will carry us a long way.”
Dallas still has not lost in regulation on the road this season (3-0-3), although their overall record drops to 4-2-4.
After Steve Ott’s return to the ice sparked the club the night before in Anaheim, Richards provided a boost to the lineup as well after sitting out the last two contests with a groin injury.
“He’s so skilled, so deceptive with the puck and the stuff he does, it was good to have Brad back,” Neal said of his usual center on the second line along with Eriksson. “He started that (tying) play. We got some chemistry going. We had that chemistry going the first two games and it kind of died off. It was a good boost to get Richie back and hopefully we’re on our way now.”
While Auld, making his third start of the season in the Dallas crease, surrendered five goals, he was still solid making 26 saves, including 10 in the third period to keep the Stars in the game.
Down 4-1 heading into the final period, the Stars began with a flourish. They had a good chance to cut their deficit just 1:13 in when Ott raced in on a shorthanded breakaway, but Kings netminder Jonathan Quick poked away his in-close backhand attempt.
Dallas got one back on Benn’s third goal of the season at 6:58, which came on an absolutely lethal wrist shot unleashed from the top of the left circle that beat Quick over the shoulder on the short side.
That energized the Stars and they began to further pressure Los Angeles in the following minutes. Fistric then struck at 8:30, just 92 seconds later, booming a slap shot from just inside the blue line that slipped through Quick’s pads for his first NHL goal. In his third season, Fistric was skating in his 80th career game.
To keep the Stars’ hopes alive, Auld was forced to make tough saves, denying Alexander Frolov from the slot through a maze of legs midway through the period and then snagging Jack Johnson’s wrist shot from the left circle with his glove with 7:24 to go in regulation.
Dallas broke through for the equalizer with 2:46 left on Neal’s second of the night and fifth of the year. On the rush into the LA zone, Neal rifled a stinging wrist shot that beat Quick over the shoulder and pinged off the inside of the far post and in before bouncing out so quickly, the officials initially waved it off. A brief video review confirmed the puck indeed went in, tying the game 4-4 and setting the stage for overtime.
“We knew that one was in, I don’t think anyone on the bench was worried,” Crawford said. “I think the only person that didn’t see it might have been the guy that called it off. But it was a good play, we got the puck by their forecheck, we ended up attacking with speed and when you attack with speed, you back people off and that allowed James to have time to use his big shot.”
The Stars fell behind early on Kopitar’s first of the night just 3:54 into the opening period. Kopitar, who also scored a goal Monday night, picked the puck up in the neutral zone and sped into the Stars’ end along the right sideboards. He swooped around Stephane Robidas in the face-off circle before cutting across the top of the crease and slipping the puck around Auld on the far side.
At one point in the period, the Kings held an 8-1 edge in shots and they opened a 2-0 lead with 4:23 left in the period on Wayne Simmonds’ third goal of the year. After Neal turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Frolov took it and raced into the Stars’ zone with it, reaching the left face-off circle before dishing a backhand cross-ice pass to Simmonds, who slipped around Karlis Skrastins and in on Auld. Simmonds made a slick move to his backhand before sliding it between Auld’s pads and in.
Neal quickly made up for his blunder, notching his first goal of the contest just 39 seconds later. After stealing the puck from LA defenseman Rob Scuderi at the Dallas blue line, Neal took off with it on a 2-on-1 rush. Richards acted as the decoy as Neal unleashed a wicked snap shot from the left circle that beat Quick just inside the far post.
Trailing 2-1 entering the second period, the Stars were victimized by a poor call by the referee and further difficulties on the penalty kill to fall further behind.
After three penalties were called (two to LA) within the span of a minute, Neal was whistled for a phantom hooking penalty and the Kings capitalized on the subsequent power play. Kopitar collected his second of the night when he controlled the puck in the corner and simply skated unmolested right to the crease and stuffed it between Auld’s pads to make it 3-1 at 7:17.
“We were giving too much time and space to him,” Skrastins said. “He’s a good player, so you can’t give him too much time and we have to be hard on him. Every time we have a chance, we have to take the hit.”
Dallas made a push after that, but Quick came up with a big save on captain Brenden Morrow in front about a minute and a half later.
LA would then go up by three shortly after that as Kopitar completed his first career hat trick with his eighth goal of the year at 9:55. The goal came after an unusually long shift trapped several tired Stars on the ice. That ultimately led to Kopitar curling off the left sideboards into the middle of the high slot before launching a high backhander that ricocheted off Auld’s glove high into the air before dropping down just over the goal line.
The Stars responded by applying a bit more offensive pressure, but Quick denied Morrow in front with 7:50 left and then made several more big saves on a power play after that. First, rookie Tom Wandell fired a wrist shot from the high slot that Quick stopped, and as Toby Petersen went for the loose rebound, Scuderi managed to box him out and prevent another shot.
Soon after that, defenseman Jeff Woywitka charged the net and fired a loose puck on goal from in close that pinged off the outside of the goal post and bounced out in front. Benn then backhanded it towards the far side of the net, but it hit Fabian Brunnstrom’s skate and stayed out.
The Stars complete their three-game road trip Saturday night when they move on to face the St. Louis Blues (7:00 pm, My27) for the first time this season.
- With his two goals, Neal has now registered four points (two goals, two assists) in the last two games. Neal also delivered five hits, second on the team only to Ott’s six.
- Eriksson also now has four points (one goal, three assists) in the last two contests.
- Benn now has two goals in the last three games.
- Defensemen Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley led the squad in ice time with 25:48 and 25:12, respectively. Daley led the club with three blocked shots.
- With their three third period goals, the Stars have now outscored opponents 12-6 in third periods this season.
- Defenseman Matt Niskanen sat out with a head injury from a hit Wednesday night against the Ducks that got Anaheim’s Evgeny Artyukhin suspended for three games. In his place,
- Dallas was once again without veterans Mike Modano (ribs) and Jere Lehtinen (abdominal soreness) because of injuries, while rookie Francis Wathier, who made his NHL debut in Anaheim Wednesday, sat out as a healthy scratch.
- The Stars were 0-for-4 on the power play, leaving them 1-for-19 with the man-advantage over their last five outings.
- Despite the loss, the Stars hold an impressive 15-5-6 mark in their last 26 contests against the Kings, including a 6-1-5 record at the STAPLES Center.
- The Stars officially activated Luke Gazdic from the injured list (shoulder) and assigned him to the AHL Texas Stars earlier in the day. Gazdic hurt the shoulder near the end of training camp.