DALLAS – The Dallas Stars did plenty good in their late matinee game on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. The good, though, was negated by some bad turnovers and loose defensive zone coverage that ultimately sealed their unfortunate fate.
Despite outshooting the Kings by a 18-9 margin over the first 40 minutes, the Stars were unable to capitalize on their chances in a 4-2 loss to their Pacific Division rival at American Airlines Center. The loss prevented the Stars from inching closer to that eighth and final playoff slot occupied by Phoenix in the Western Conference, and left Dallas stuck in 11th place with 59 points, three behind the Coyotes.
“It’s always tough when we lose like this,” Loui Eriksson said. “We needed the two points. It’s too bad we didn’t win. I thought we played real well, and got a lot of shots to the net. We need to stay positive and keep going. There’s a lot of games left.”
Against the lowest-scoring team in the league, the Stars took some time to get their legs under them against a team that played Saturday on Long Island against the New York Islanders. The sluggish start put the Stars into a 2-0 hole that they were eventually able to dig out of when Michael Ryder popped in a goal early in the third period to knot things up.
But Jordan Nolan’s first career NHL goal with less than 9 minutes to go in regulation gave the Kings their final lead of the game, and Justin Williams capped the scoring with an empty-net tally to send the Stars to their second straight game without a win (0-1-1). Dallas is still 2-2-1 in its last five, but it squandered a golden opportunity to make up some ground in their playoff push with the Coyotes, ninth-place Calgary and 10th place Colorado Avalanche. All three of those clubs were idle on Sunday.
“They’re all tough losses when you’re trying to catch anybody,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We didn’t start good and gave them a goal early. We should have been ready right from the beginning. By the time we got into the game, you’re one mistake away from being out of it, and that’s what happened at the end. We shot ourselves in the foot. Turnovers cost us again. Some self-inflicted wounds.”
Eriksson had a goal and assist, and Kari Lehtonen finished with 12 saves for the Stars (28-24-3), who lost their second straight at home.
“I didn’t face that many shots, and wasn’t able to make enough saves,” Lehtonen said. “It felt like I didn’t get the job done. I have to do a better job. We kept going and going, and then they’d come back and score against us.”
The Stars were undone by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who entered with the third-best goals-against average (1.91) in the league. Quick was able to corral Dallas’ shots and prevent any rebounds, and the Kings stingy defense also did their part as well by limiting the Stars’ shots mostly from long range.
“I think their goalie stole the show,” Lehtonen said. “He made great saves and got the win for them.”
Still, the Stars continued to plug away and erased the two-goal deficit when Ryder notched his team-leading 21st of the season 4:37 into the third period to even things at 2. Sliding towards the left boards with the puck, Eriksson brought three Kings’ players with him before slipping a pass to Ryder, who was drifting into the high slot. After eyeing his target, Ryder ripped a snap shot into the top-left corner right below the crossbar.
But the Kings regained their lead with 8:31 left in the third when Nolan scored to make it 3-2. Mike Richards picked up a loose puck below the goal line and sent a quick pass to the inner edge of the right circle where Nolan swooped in and one-timed a shot that squirted through Lehtonen.
Williams then iced it with three seconds to go with Lehtonen on the bench for the extra attacker.
Williams and Dwight King had a goal and assist each, Andrei Loktionov also scored, and Quick finished with 26 saves for the Kings (27-19-11).
“They buried their chances,” said Alex Goligoski, who had a pair of assists. “I don’t think they had too many, but give them credit…they buried the ones they had. We left a couple plays out there, but it was a good effort.”
Up by a goal after one period, Los Angeles stretched its lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal by Loktionov 8:21 into the second. At the left point, Kings’ defenseman Jack Johnson sent a pass to Loktionov in the high slot, but the puck glanced off Loktionov’s skate and fluttered in just under Lehtonen’s glove and above his left pad.
Eriksson cut the deficit to 2-1 with his 18th of the year with 6:38 left in the middle frame. Off the rush, Mike Ribeiro sent a cross-ice pass to Goligoski, who skated into the left circle with the puck. Goligoski then sent a pass to Eriksson at the top of the crease, and Eriksson rammed it home for his first goal in the past 11 games.
“I’ve just been trying to stay in front of the net, and I got a great pass from Goose and it went in,” Eriksson said. “It was nice to see it go in.”
King staked the Kings to a 1-0 lead with 11:06 left in the first period with his first career NHL goal. Behind the goal line, Anze Kopitar stole the puck away from Nicklas Grossman and sent a pass to Williams in the left circle. Williams shot went off Jamie Benn’s stick and skidded to the side of the net, where King picked it up and tucked it in.
“At this juncture you can’t wait to see what a game is going to be like,” Gulutzan said. “You have to play with some fear.”
The Stars head back on the road and travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Tuesday night (6:30 p.m., FS-SW). The Red Wings entered Sunday’s action atop the Western Conference with 76 points.
“It’s a tough challenge for us,” Eriksson said. “They’ve been playing really well at home, so we have to get back on it against them. We need to be ready.”
-- Defenseman Sheldon Souray sat out his second straight game after taking a shot to the foot in Thursday’s win at Columbus. Adam Pardy and Jake Dowell were the other scratches.
-- Eriksson tied Ulf Dahlen for the most goals in Stars history by a Swedish-born player with 130.
-- Eriksson finished with four goals and six points in the six-game series against the Kings this season.
-- Goligoski has points in each of his last three games, and seven of the last nine.
-- Ryder has earned a point in each of the last five games against Los Angeles.
-- Dallas went 3-3-0 against the Kings this season. The Stars were unable to win four games against Los Angles in a season for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.
-- The Stars were 0 of 3 on the power play, while the Kings were 1 of 2.
-- The Stars fell to 15-11-2 on the road.
1 - 0 LAK
2 - 0 LAK
2 - 1 LAK
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 LAK
4 - 2 LAK
Holding the stick