LOS ANGELES – The old myth that a low-scoring game is a boring one has never been more discredited than it was during the Dallas Stars’ hard-fought battle Saturday night at the Staples Center.
In a highly-entertaining contest featuring lots of end-to-end action, a multitude of scoring chances, plenty of big hits and outstanding goaltending, the Stars surrendered a late goal to succumb 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings.
Despite playing perhaps their most complete performance of the season, the Stars’ defeat snapped a five-game winning streak, although they remain tied with Colorado for the top spot in the Western Conference with a 6-2-0 record.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome but I guess we are going to rationalize it to ourselves in the fact that we thought that we played real well and the game could have gone either way,” said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan. “I thought this was our best game all year, from start to finish. I thought that we are playing against a high-caliber hockey club and we played a solid game and it was back and forth. It was real good for the fans and I thought it was our best game of the year.”
“Maybe we didn’t deserve one or two of the other ones (that we won),” added defenseman Alex Goligoski, who contributed three shots on goal. “We played the way we wanted to and I think if we play that way the rest of the way, we’ll be all right.”
The Stars outshot the Kings 28-24, just the second time this year they’ve accumulated more shots on goal than their opponent. But LA goaltender Jonathan Quick made 28 saves to record his third consecutive shutout for the Kings, who are now just a point behind Dallas in the Pacific Division with a 5-1-1 mark.
The Stars had controlled the play for most of the third period before surrendering a somewhat fluky goal with less than five minutes remaining by Jack Johnson, and that ended up being the difference.
In the second of back-to-back games for the Stars, backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft got the call in net for just his second start of the season, and he put forth an outstanding effort, making 23 saves.
“I felt good, I felt like we were going to win all night and they get a lucky shot that finds a hole,” said Raycroft. “We hit posts and missed nets and missed rebounds. I definitely thought we outplayed them and had more chances, we just didn’t have as much luck.”
“I don’t think there’s a lot of things in our game we can complain about, besides finishing,” added Dallas captain Brenden Morrow, who fired four shots on goal. “Razor gave us a solid effort and we sure would have liked to get him the win because he was battling hard for us, but sometimes the puck just doesn’t go in for you and we didn’t get one tonight.”
Entering the final period tied 0-0, the Stars started out applying considerable pressure on the Kings, generating several scoring chances.
Quick, one of just two goaltenders in the NHL to enter the day with a higher save percentage than Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen, was forced to make point-blank saves on Eric Nystrom at 2:27 and Morrow at 4:20.
Michael Ryder then nearly broke the tie at 4:58 when he rifled a scorching wrist shot from the top of the left face-off circle that beat Quick past the glove, but the puck clanked off the far goal post.
Following several strong Dallas shifts of sustained pressure, the Kings connected for the game’s only goal at 15:02 immediately after a face-off win in the Stars’ zone. Mike Richards won the draw cleanly from Steve Ott, pulling the puck back to the point and Johnson launched a hard but wobbly slap shot that appeared to ricochet ever-so-slightly off the backside of Stars blueliner Adam Pardy in front and past Raycroft’s blocker.
“It’s a tough role, but he was great,” Goligoski said of Raycroft. “He held us in there early and that last one, he doesn’t even see, kind of a knuckleball.”
Dallas kept pressing for the equalizer, continuing to swarm the Kings’ zone, and pulled Raycroft for an extra attacker with 1:50 left in regulation.
About six seconds later, the Stars nearly cashed in when Sheldon Souray’s wrist shot from the left point was deflected in front by Loui Eriksson, but Quick made the sprawling save and then stopped Eriksson on the rebound.
“We kind of touched on it afterwards, it was probably our best game we’ve played,” said Raycroft. “Back-to-back on the road in a tough building, we played our game tonight. We stayed disciplined and didn’t really give up much.”
Dallas had the contest’s first scoring opportunity when Pardy, back in the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch the night before, fired a quick snap shot from the right circle at 9:08, forcing Quick to make a sparkling glove save.
Less than two minutes later, Raycroft made his best save of the period, thwarting Dustin Penner’s drive-by deflection in front of Dustin Brown’s wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle.
Quick then came up big again when he denied Ryder’s one-timer from the slot at 11:46 with a pad save.
The contest’s first fight of the night occurred with 3:18 left in the period when Ott, playing in his 500th career regular season game, dropped the gloves with LA’s Richards.
Scoreless heading into the second period, the Stars dodged a bullet at 3:58 when a Stephane Robidas turnover at the LA blue line led to a breakaway by Justin Williams, who attempted to slip it between Raycroft’s pads, but the Dallas goalie made the stop.
Raycroft made another huge save at 9:06 during a Los Angeles power play, when he turned aside Simon Gagne’s wide open one-timer from the slot with his pad.
Another Dallas giveaway, this time from Souray in his own zone, led to another glorious Kings chance with 2:28 left in the second, but Raycroft made a big save on Alec Martinez’s slap shot from the top of the left circle.
Raycroft made another impressive stop with 1:31 remaining in the period when he slid across the crease to deny Ethan Moreau’s wrap-around attempt.
The Stars had a prime chance of their own just 14 second later when Eriksson fired a quick wrist shot in front, over a sliding Rob Scuderi, but Quick made the stop.
“We were really good tonight at the blue lines, the ice was really bad out there tonight, you could probably tell, but managing the puck and really playing a team game supporting the puck,” said Goligoski. “We were really good tonight, especially on back-to-back nights, that shows mental toughness more than anything. It’s good, everyone’s buying in.”
The Stars get a couple of days to recover before concluding their four-game road trip Tuesday night in Phoenix against the Coyotes (9 pm, FSSW). This will be the second contest against their divisional opponent this year, after toppling them 2-1 at home in a shootout back on Oct. 10.
“It’s encouraging and when I say that I think we’re moving forwards, it’s pretty easy to say, but the last thing I heard before leaving the dressing room before going out for the third period was, ‘Let’s stick to the game plan,’” said Gulutzan. “And I thought for the players, if they get to that belief that they need to play a certain way to win at this level, then that means they’re buying in and if you get 20 guys on the same page, you’re hard to beat, so I think we’re moving forward.”
- The shutout marks the end of Ott’s six-game scoring streak, during which he totaled six points (two goals, four assists), and of Eriksson’s five-game streak, which included five goals and two assists.
- Jamie Benn tied Morrow for the team lead with four shots on goal, while Robidas led the squad in ice time with 21:52.
- Ott delivered a game-high six hits.
- The Stars helped out Raycroft by blocking a total of 26 shots in front of them, considerably more than the 11 blocked shots recorded by LA.
- Despite the crucial lost face-off in the third period that led to the goal against, Dallas actually topped the Kings in draws, winning 27 and losing 19. Adam Burish was 5-0 at the dot, while Ott was 6-3 and Ribeiro 8-5.
- Center Jake Dowell sat out as a healthy scratch for the first time this season, with winger Krys Barch and defenseman Mark Fistric joining him in the press box for this one.
1 - 0 LAK
Interference - Goalkeeper