DALLAS – With the game seemingly headed for overtime, Michal Handzus carved out space in front of the net and grabbed a critical two points for the Los Angeles Kings.
Handzus scored the tiebreaking goal with 20.8 seconds remaining and the Kings stretched their winning streak to three with a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
Jamie Langenbrunner had tied it 2-2 for Dallas with 43 seconds left when he poked a loose puck through the pads of Jonathan Quick, who lost sight of the puck in the crease after stopping Alex Goligoski’s attempt.
The Kings didn’t hang their heads.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Handzus set up in front amid a crowd of bodies and steered Alexei Ponikarovsky’s centring feed past goalie Kari Lehtonen for the win.
“I was coming in, looking for the puck, and got my stick down,” Handzus said. “It was a great pass by (Ponikarovsky). It’s huge. It’s two points, and we need every point. Plus, they didn’t get a point. When you score that late, it’s a lot of fun.”
Drew Doughty and Dustin Penner added goals for Los Angeles (39-25-5), and Quick made 17 saves. The Kings are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and winners of four straight on the road.
Los Angeles improved to 83 points, one more than Dallas (37-24-8) in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Kings coach Terry Murray was pleased at how fast his team answered Langenbrunner’s goal.
“That’s a tough one whenever that happens,” Murray said. “I thought (Quick) had it covered. He kind of lost it, but what a response. That’s the main thing. What a response by that line. They get the puck to the net and dig in. There’s a lot of traffic, a lot of people banging and hacking around the blue paint, and the puck pops on (Handzus’) stick. So it was a good finish for us.”
Brad Richards also scored and Lehtonen stopped 22 shots for the Stars, 6-1-2 in their last nine games.
For the Stars, the most disappointing aspect was their inability to earn at least a point by forcing overtime.
“We tied it up, but they kept coming,” Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas said. “Every game now is close, part of the reality of the NHL. It’s a playoff race, we’re fighting for points, and every team is desperate.”
Los Angeles struck on the game’s first power play when Doughty’s slap shot from the right point got past a screened Lehtonen at 3:04 of the opening period.
Penner made it 2-0 at 14:01 of the second, converting Anze Kopitar’s goal-mouth feed for his 23rd goal.
Richards narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 18:00 of the second when he scored on a breakaway off a long lead pass from Loui Eriksson.
Richards’ 25th goal of the season was his first since Feb. 13. He missed 10 games with concussion-like symptoms and played his third since returning.
Richards is slowly catching up to the speed of the game after sitting out almost a month. His latest performance was his best since he came back.
“I don’t think I forgot how to play in the last month,” Richards said. “I knew it would take a few games. I tried to play a little smarter and safer in the first few games, and that doesn’t work that well for me.”
Notes: Stars C Jamie Benn had a six-game, goal-streak snapped. … Kopitar, coming off his second career hat trick in Friday night’s 4-2 win at Columbus, has seven goals and eight assists in 10 games. Kopitar rang a shot off a post with about five minutes to go in the first period. … Dallas was without forward Adam Burish (lower body). He has several nagging injuries and is day-to-day. … Lehtonen made his 10th consecutive start and played in his 56th game of the season. Injuries limited Lehtonen to 58 games over the previous two seasons.