LOS ANGELES – The Dallas Stars’ power play had its most productive night of the season, scoring four times against a team that allowed only one goal during 20 penalty kills in the previous five meetings.
Brad Richards scored two goals less than five minutes apart in the second period, Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott also connected on the power play, and the Stars avoided a six-game sweep by the Los Angeles Kings with a 4-1 victory on Saturday night.
“I didn’t know what our record was against them. We just came in like it was any other game,” Morrow said.
Mike Ribeiro and Stephane Robidas each had two assists, and Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves in his sixth start with Dallas since being acquired from Atlanta.
“We had to take advantage of our power plays,” Richards said. “They’re battling right now in a tough situation where they have to win, so you’re probably not going to get a lot of 5-on-5.”
The Kings, vying for their first post-season berth since 2002, lost their third straight and are 5-6-2 since the Olympic break. Los Angeles is seventh in the Western Conference, a point back of Detroit, and one ahead of Colorado with eight games remaining.
The four power-play goals for Dallas equalled the most allowed by Los Angeles.
“Our special teams were no good,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “The penalty killing was no good and the power play was no good.”
Michal Handzus opened the scoring at 15:52 of the first period on a rebound of Anze Kopitar’s shot. But staggered penalties to Wayne Simmonds and Kings teammate Sean O’Donnell during the final 47 seconds of the period gave Dallas a two-man advantage that led to the tying goal by Morrow 17 seconds into the second period.
“It’s a lot easier to start a period on the power play than when you’re killing one,” Morrow said. “It’s always a good feeling when you’re coming out with fresh ice.
“When you get a fresh sheet out there, it’s going to be a lot easier.”
The play that led to Morrow’s 18th goal started when Robidas intercepted an attempted backhanded clearing pass by defenceman Rob Scuderi and threw it into the low slot to Ribeiro, who slid the puck over to Morrow at the other side of the crease.
Richards made it 2-1 when his intended centring pass to Ott from the left circle caromed off Scuderi’s right skate and into the net while Jarret Stoll was off for high-sticking at 4:20.
“I made a big mistake on that first goal that I take complete credit for,” Scuderi said. “On the second one, I was in the right position, but the puck bounced right off my stake and into the net. Sometimes when it is not your night, it is not your night.
“The biggest disappointment is that it was a real deflator for the whole team.”
The Stars connected again at 9:15 of the second during 4-on-3 advantage – 10 seconds after defenceman Drew Doughty went off for tripping. Robidas sent a quick pass to Richards for a long one-timer that beat Jonathan Quick for a 3-1 lead.
“After getting a couple of big penalty kills in the first period and giving them only one power-play goal, it was important that we came back and did what we did,” Richards said. “We moved our feet and drew some penalties, and the power play did a good job. It probably deflated them, because they threw a lot at us in the first.”
Richards’ 17th career multi-goal effort, along with an assist on Ott’s goal, gave him 85 points.
“Brad’s always been the playmaker and the quarterback on the power play,” Morrow said. “He always makes the unexpected play that the other team isn’t ready for. We’ve seen it time and time again, so you always have to be prepared and keep your stick on the ice because it’s probably coming back to you.”
Ryan Smyth got an interference penalty with 35 seconds left in the second period, and the Stars cashed in 48 seconds into the third when Ott converted a rebound of James Neal’s one-timer from the right circle for his 16th goal. The Kings had allowed only two goals in 36 short-handed situations over their previous 11 games.
NOTES: Dallas is the only NHL team that hasn’t had a winning streak of more than two games this season. The Stars had a five-game streak last season from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. … The Stars haven’t gone an entire season without beating the Kings since 1995-96, when all four games ended in ties. … Dallas has scored five goals with a two-man advantage this season, but hasn’t allowed any in 11 5-on-3s against them. … The Stars will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1987 and 1988, when the franchise was based in Minnesota.