DALLAS – Right now, the Los Angeles Kings appear to have the Dallas Stars’ number.
Rookie Slava Voynov scored two goals and Mike Richards had three assists to lead the Kings to a 5-3 victory over the Stars Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
It was the Kings’ second triumph over Dallas in the last five days, although the Stars, who are 7-1-0 against the rest of the NHL, remain atop the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.
Los Angeles, now 6-2-1 on the year, moved to within a point of Dallas with the win.
In their first game back home after a four-game road trip in which they went 3-1-0, the loss was also the club’s first at home in five games this season, and snapped Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s career-high seven-game winning streak.
After the tight defensive battle in which LA prevailed 1-0 last Saturday, this one turned out to be a distinctly different type of game. The Stars, who were outscored 3-0 in the second period, rallied in the third to tie it 3-3 before surrendering the go-ahead goal late in the final period.
“For coming back from a road swing, I thought we played pretty well,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “My first glance at it is that we clawed our way back in the third, we had a pretty good first. It was a little different game than the one we played in LA, for both teams. I’m okay with our effort right now. We had a chance to win there with 10 minutes left in the third and you always want to put yourself in that position. We battled back in the third, showed some character, but in the end, another seeing-eye single that goes through and found its way to the back of the net.”
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick entered the night having posted three consecutive shutouts, setting a Kings franchise record in the process, but the Stars were able to put three pucks past him, getting goals from Trevor Daley, Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom.
Despite surrendering more than two goals for the first time this season, Lehtonen had another strong performance, making 24 saves on the night en route to his first defeat of the season.
“That’s a really good team over there, they got great players,” said Daley, who notched his first goal of the season. “It was a good measuring stick for us to see where we are, just like the other night we played them. I thought we played better the other night. Kari played really well again tonight and gave us a chance and that’s all we expect of him.”
Trailing 3-1 entering the final period, the Stars narrowed the deficit to one on Ryder’s third goal of the season at 3:03. Mike Ribeiro controlled the puck all alone just to the right of the net, paused a moment, then lifted a wrist shot that rolled up Quick’s arm and bounced into the crease, where Ryder slammed it home.
Dallas then evened it up at 3-3 on Nystrom’s first goal as a Star at 7:20. Vernon Fiddler set it up with a slick backhand pass from behind the LA net that found Nystrom in the slot for a one-timer that appeared to deflect off a defenseman’s stick in front and slipped between Quick’s pads, and in a moment of Dallas sports synergy, entered the net at the exact moment Adrian Beltre’s go-ahead home run landed in the stands in the seventh inning of the Texas Rangers’ World Series Game 6 contest.
“That line’s played hard,” said Gulutzan of the checking line of Nystrom, Fiddler, and Radek Dvorak. “They all skate and they all play hard, they give you an honest effort. It was good to see them get that goal - that was a big goal for our hockey club.”
Unfortunately for the Stars, the positive vibes did not last, as Voynov scored his second goal of the night to give the Kings a 4-3 lead at 13:08.
Lehtonen kept the Stars in it with 4:18 remaining in regulation and LA on a power play, when he stopped Jack Johnson’s wrist shot from the point, and then managed to get his skate on Anze Kopitar’s point-blank rebound chance, pinning the puck against the right post.
Dallas killed off that disadvantage, then went on the power play themselves with 2:55 to go, but were unable to capitalize. Their best chance came with 1:55 left when Daley’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle went off Quick’s glove and fell in the crease, where a mad scramble in front ensued, but Jamie Benn’s backhander rolled just wide of the left post.
The Stars pulled Lehtonen for an extra attacker with 1:01 remaining, but Dustin Brown found the empty net with 26.3 seconds on the clock to end the drama.
“We showed some character in coming back in the third there, just an unlucky fourth goal, I guess and then they capped it off with the empty netter,” said Benn, who earned an assist. “I think we showed that a lot this year, getting some goals in the last minute. We were confident that we’re going to score, we just had a tough break tonight and couldn’t do it.”
The Stars got on the scoreboard first, as Daley found the back of the net on a power play at 14:01. Coming 23 seconds after Quick made a huge save on Benn’s one-timer from the slot, Benn slid a short pass from behind the LA net to Loui Eriksson at the lip of the crease. Quick made a sliding save on Eriksson’s shot, but lost sight of the rebound, which rolled over to the left of the crease, where Daley popped it home.
“It was one of those ‘thank you very much,’ a tap-in backdoor,” said Daley. “I don’t mind those.”
That marked the first goal the Stars had scored against the Kings this season and snapped Quick’s personal scoreless streak at a club record 202:11.
Dallas got themselves in major penalty trouble when Adam Burish was whistled for slashing when he knocked Richards’ stick out of his hands with 2:21 left in the period. That gave the Kings a 5-on-3 advantage, but the Stars’ penalty killing unit was outstanding, with a little help from Lehtonen.
Lehtonen made a nice stop on Jack Johnson’s blast from the right point with 1:26 remaining, then denied Simon Gagne’s point-blank chance in front with 47 seconds to go.
Benn nearly notched a short-handed goal just as Burish’s penalty was expiring, splitting the LA defense to come in on Quick alone, but just as he was deking to his forehand, the puck rolled off his stick and into the corner.
Leading 1-0 heading into the second period, the Stars surrendered the equalizer just 3:47 in on Justin Williams’ third goal of the season. After Lehtonen stopped Voynov’s one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle, the rebound bounced right to Williams at the right side of the crease, and he quickly chipped it over Lehtonen’s pads and in.
Lehtonen made a spectacular save on a Los Angeles power play at 8:33 when Alec Martinez’s slap shot from the point went wide but ricocheted off the end boards and back into the crease, where Williams pushed it under Lehtonen. It trickled through the crease, where Simon Gagne was about to tap it home, but Lehtonen dove across with his stick to stop the puck on the goal line.
Benn, who had been in the penalty box, stepped onto the ice, collected the puck at center ice and led a 2-on-1 rush into the Kings’ zone at 9:24. Benn opted not to pass over to Loui Eriksson, instead rifling a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that Quick made a nice save on.
The Kings then took a 2-1 lead on Scott Parse’s first goal of the season at 11:27. On another play where a slap shot from the point went wide and pinballed off the end boards back out, Richards retrieved the puck and managed to squeeze a pass just between Lehtonen’s pad and the right goal post into the crease, where Parse, who had been a healthy scratch for the previous six games, had an easy tap-in.
On a Dallas power play two minutes later, the Stars nearly tied it again, but Benn’s wrister from the slot clanked off the left post.
Los Angeles extended their advantage to 3-1 on another power play at 15:21, on Voynov’s first career NHL goal. Richards’ shot from the left circle deflected to Dustin Brown at the left side of the crease, and Brown slid a deft pass across to the charging Voynov in the right circle for a one-timer that tipped off the top of Lehtonen’s glove and in.
Just 35 seconds later, the Kings had another opportunity as Lehtonen was called upon to make a huge save on Brad Richardson’s point-blank shot in front.
“It was a tough one out there,” Daley said. “I think we battled our way back and tied it, I think that last one had some eyes to get through. It’s tough, when you get back in the game, you want to get something out of it and we didn’t tonight.”
The Stars remain home for their next contest, a matchup Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils (7 pm, TXA-21), a game far more notable because it is Joe Nieuwendyk night, when the Dallas General Manager will be honored during a pre-game ceremony for his impending Hockey Hall of Fame induction.
Fans are encouraged to show up early for the festivities, and with Halloween just around the corner, fans are also urged to wear their costumes to the game, with a chance to win prizes and to go trick-or-treating.
- Nystrom’s first point as a Star was his 24th career goal, coming in his fifth game with his new squad.
- Daley’s goal was his first of the season and the 35th of his career.
- Ryder’s goal was his third in the last six contests.
- Benn’s assist leaves him with seven points (one goal, six assists) in the last six games. He also led the Stars with five shots on goal.
- Once again, Dallas dominated their opponents in blocked shots, 25-11, with Stephane Robidas and Brenden Morrow each blocking four. Morrow and Robidas also tied for the team lead with five hits each.