DALLAS – The Los Angeles Kings played a night game and then travelled to Dallas—and still appeared to be the fresher squad Sunday night.
Brad Richardson and Justin Williams scored third-period goals just over a minute apart to help lift the Kings to a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars. Jeff Carter also scored his 20th goal of the season for Los Angeles, which has lost just once in regulation in Dallas in its last 14 visits (11-1-2) and outshot the Stars 40-15.
“Definitely, it’s a hell of an effort,” Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier said. “Plus, we played last night, not an easy game to play, a 5 o’clock game. We found a way and we really battled hard.”
The Kings were coming off a 4-3 shootout loss at Minnesota.
Richardson’s goal was particularly impressive, since the fourth-liner was playing his first game since Feb. 10 and third of the season overall after sitting out as a healthy scratch the other 32 contests.
“(Richardson provided) some energy and some speed,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Him and I have a good relationship and I feel bad not playing him. He’s a guy that can play anywhere in your lineup. It’s been hard for him.”
Bernier needed to make just 13 saves for the Kings, and remained unbeaten—8-0-0 in his starts this season.
“He’s solid. That’s the way we want him to play,” Sutter said of Bernier, whose only losses have come in relief appearances. “We want our goalies to give us a chance to win.”
Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney scored for Dallas, which had won both previous meetings between the Pacific Division rivals this season by a combined score of 7-2.
“It was like teams from two different leagues tonight, and they were back-to-back, so thank the Lord that they weren’t fresh,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We’re fighting for our lives here. After an embarrassing outing in front of our home fans like that, we better come out hard tomorrow.”
Kari Lehtonen made 37 saves in his 14th consecutive start to keep Dallas in a game they probably shouldn’t have had a chance to win.
“We just got to find a way to help our goalie, he can’t stop everything,” Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas said. “It could have been pretty ugly if he had an off game. It looks like we were the team that played back-to-back and had to travel. There’s no excuse for that.”
Whitney’s goal came on the power play, which Dallas has converted on six of its last 15 opportunities over the past four games.
The Kings, coming off a 4-3 shootout loss in Minnesota on Saturday, remained unbeaten in regulation after four stops on a five-game road trip (3-0-1).
Despite controlling much of the action and outshooting Dallas 34-9 by the five-minute mark of the final period, the Kings were still tied 1-1, but two goals within a span of 1:09 propelled them to a 3-1 lead.
First, Richardson notched his first goal in exactly one calendar year at 5:40 of the third when he recovered a loose puck following a Dallas defensive zone turnover and lifted a quick snap shot over Lehtonen’s blocker.
“It’s been a trying year so far,” said Richardson, who finished with four shots on goal. “It felt good to definitely get in there for sure, but especially get a goal, contribute and have a nice win. It was nice.”
Williams’ seventh goal of the season came just 69 seconds later when he nudged his own rebound home from the edge of the crease after Lehtonen denied his point-blank one-timer.
The Stars’ strong power-play unit pulled them to within one at 11:04 of the third when Whitney’s booming slap shot from the right point whizzed past a screened Bernier for his seventh goal.
“That was a positive, against a good penalty kill, they got one,” Gulutzan said of the PP unit.
Dallas’ attempted comeback did not get much traction after that, though, and never seriously threatened again, not even for the final 57 seconds, when Lehtonen was pulled for an extra attacker.
“It’s just one of those games where you’re not going to get too many chances, but when you do you’ve got to finish,” Benn said. “We didn’t do that tonight. We’ve got to find a way to put pucks on the net and find ways to get more scoring chances.”
The Kings were dominating play on the ice, controlling the puck and outshooting Dallas 21-4 when Benn scored on the Stars’ first shot of the second period to tie it at 1 at 13:16.
The Kings took a 1-0 lead on the first shift, thanks to a fortuitous bounce that resulted in Carter’s 20th goal of the season. After Dustin Penner knocked Robidas off the puck in the left corner, Carter grabbed the puck and shovelled a harmless-looking backhander that re-directed off the skate of Dallas’ Brenden Dillon and sailed over Lehtonen’s shoulder just 25 seconds into the opening period.
“It was a little weird. It wasn’t a nice way to start the game, going down in the first minute,” Lehtonen said. “After that, we just had to regroup.”
NOTES: Stars LW Toby Petersen made his season debut after he was recalled from Texas of the AHL on Saturday. After skating the previous four seasons in Dallas, Petersen, 34, led Texas with 65 games played. … The Stars honoured former RW Brett Hull for being a part of their 20th anniversary all-time team. Hull, who played just three of his 20-year Hall of Fame career in Dallas, scored the winning goal in the third overtime of Game 6 to give the franchise its only Stanley Cup in 1999. … Kings G Jonathan Quick had started LA’s previous five contests and 12 of 14 before getting a rest.