LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Brenden Morrow was unsure whether Mike Ribeiro passed the puck to him, or whether he simply stole it from his Dallas teammate.
Morrow’s winning goal after that exchange left absolutely no doubt the Stars are resilient enough to contend with the best of the West.
Morrow scored 38 seconds into overtime, and the Stars rallied from a late deficit for a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
The Dallas captain collected what appeared to be a back pass from Ribeiro and eluded three Kings to score his 26th goal of the season for the Stars, who have won five of their past six and haven’t lost in regulation since Feb. 22.
“It showed huge character for us to come out and get that two points,” Morrow said of the Stars’ three rallies from one-goal deficits.
“This group has been good about that all year. Last year and in years past, it was something we wouldn’t be mentally tough enough to overcome. But now we just wipe those things away and try to steal the momentum on the next shift.”
Ribeiro had a goal and two assists, and Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves as the Stars put a strong finish on their third California road game in four nights. Trevor Daley and Jamie Benn scored tying goals for Dallas in the third period, with Benn getting a short-handed breakaway goal with 14:40 to play.
With leading scorer Brad Richards sidelined by an apparent concussion, the Stars had lost five straight and were on the verge of irrelevancy before their current surge, which has put them right back into a tie for fifth place in the muddled Western Conference standings.
Los Angeles never trailed in regulation, and Dallas twice gave up goals less than a minute after tying the score. None of it stopped the Stars from sticking with it in the final stop of a four-game trip against every other team in the Pacific Division.
“It took a lot of grit,” Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. “It’s funny, because you usually don’t get many opportunities against the Kings because they play solidly defensively. That’s been our secret lately, too. We haven’t given up many opportunities, but there were a few mistakes made tonight on both sides, and when you made the mistakes, they ended up being on the sticks of guys that had something going.”
Willie Mitchell, Justin Williams and Kyle Clifford scored for the Kings, who lost three of four to wrap up a six-game homestand. While the Stars seized an unlikely victory, the Kings felt they gave it away.
“We’re a team that if we’re going to make the playoffs, we’re going to need to lock games like these down,” said Williams, who earned his 400th career point with an assist. “We missed an opportunity to jump ahead of these guys in the standings. On the other side, we’re going to make sure that that point isn’t going to stop us from making the playoffs. We have a big road trip coming up, so we’re going to have to have a big push.”
Jonathan Bernier made 18 saves and Anze Kopitar had two assists for the Kings, still stuck in eighth place in the West. Up next is a four-game road trip, their final significant stretch away from Staples Center during the chase for their second straight playoff berth.
“The one-goal lead going into the third gave us a good position over a team in our division,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. “We should be able to shut that game down. We didn’t manage the puck. We made mistakes and turned the puck over. That’s something we need to clean up right away.”
Mitchell scored his third goal of the season in the opening minutes, wiring a low shot from the point that deflected right through defenceman Stephane Robidas and Lehtonen. Dallas didn’t get its first shot on goal until 9:17 in, but Ribeiro tied it in the second period when he joined an odd-man rush with no defenders near him, firing home his 13th goal.
Just 35 seconds later, Williams fired a long shot and then split two defencemen to collect the long rebound allowed by Lehtonen, banging it home on his second hack for his 21st goal.
Daley evened it at 2 by sneaking into the Kings’ defence for his first goal since Jan. 15 early in the third period. Clifford answered 44 seconds later, putting a perfectly placed shot in the far cornerabove Lehtonen’s glove for the rookie’s first goal in 20 games.
But Kings defenceman Drew Doughty’s halfhearted pass from the point during a Los Angeles power play was intercepted by Benn, who skated in untouched for his 17th goal.
Notes: Richards missed his 10th straight game. … Stars agitator Steve Ott received a game misconduct for spearing Clifford when the two argued after a scrum late in the first period. Ott used the blade end of his stick to poke Clifford while a linesman separated them. “I would be awfully surprised if he got (a suspension) for that,” Crawford said. “That was nothing, absolutely nothing. I mean, guys get hurt more when you wipe dandruff off your shoulder. Usually, they won’t make a call like that.”