If you were expecting a low scoring, grind it out game between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings Thursday, they didn’t deliver. What they provided was an intense, revved up that game that had 79 shots on goals, 76 hits, 13 power plays and when it was over the Stars had a 5-4 shootout victory.
“I thought it was a tremendous hockey game tonight, maybe not for the coaches but for the fans,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It was exciting, it was fast through 65 full minutes.”
And it was a big two points for the Stars, who picked up a point on the eighth place Kings and moved into seventh place in the West based on points percentage.
"I try to tell myself not to look at the standings, but every day I am searching them out to see if the change from 3 to 4 o’clock,” Gulutzan said. “We are playing playoff hockey. It's going to be a tough stretch here, but (games) 40 through 60, we've got to be strong."
The Stars squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the game, but then scored a late goal to overcome a 4-3 deficit to tie and force overtime.
Loui Eriksson led the offensive attack for the Stars, scoring two goals in regulation, including the game-tying goal with 5:25 remaining, and then tallying the lone goal of the shootout.
“Of course it was an important win for us. It’s always a tight game against L.A. I thought we came back there pretty good and finally won the game. It was two big points for us,” said Eriksson. “It was really intense out there. We took too many penalties, but we found a way to stick with it.”
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, despite surrendering four goals against, was superb. He had several big saves at key times and stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout.
“He played great. They put a lot of shots on net, both teams did,” said Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “He was a huge part of it tonight.”
The Stars built a 2-0 lead with goals 51 seconds apart in the first 20 minutes. Brenden Morrow won a puck battle in the Dallas end, helping put the Stars on the rush and Eriksson tallied from close range at the 14:04 mark.
Anze Kopitar scored on the Kings second power play of the game at 6:16 of the second to make it a 2-1 game. The Stars were up 3-1 later when Alex Goligoski scored on an odd-man rush. A little more than two minutes later Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman misplayed a puck, leading to a breakaway for Trevor Lewis, who scored on a backhand shot.
The Stars got into penalty trouble early in the third period and the Kings scored two power play goals to take a 4-3 lead. Johnson scored on a five-on-three to tie the game and then Dustin Brown scored later in the period on another power play chance to make it a 4-3 game.
But the Stars got a four-minute power play with a little less than eight minutes left when Mike Richards went after Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who had just nailed Kopitar with a hard hit behind the Dallas net. Richards picked up an instigator and an unsportsmanlike conduct for picking up the instigator while wearing a visor.
“Richie [Mike Richards] stepped up for Kop and did his job,” Brown told the Kings official site. “That rule (the penalty for visor) is right in the rule book. There’s no arguing on that one. There’s no arguing that or the instigator. I didn’t see it, but I’m assuming he went right after him and got the two for instigating, and then the other one is automatic.”
Kopitar was down on the ice for a while before leaving on his own power. He did not return to the game. The word after the game was that Kopitar had an upper body injury. The Kings apparently didn’t have any issues with Morrow’s hit and Gulutzan said it looked legal to him.
“We watched it in slow motion and in my mind it was a clean hit," Gulutzan said. "He fell very awkward. I hope he is OK. I don’t know the extent of anything there. He fell awkwardly into the boards. I don’t think anything will come of it, but that is for the league to decide.”
On the four-minute power play, the Stars kept the Kings pinned in their own zone for more than two minutes before Eriksson scored from close range to tie the game at 4-4 with 5:25 remaining.
There was no scoring in overtime, but there was plenty of action, especially after Kings defenseman Drew Doughty ran over Lehtonen. That set off a scrum and the two teams played the final 21 seconds of overtime three-on-three.
In the shootout, Eriksson scored the lone goal, slipping the puck past quick with one hand. Lehtonen stopped Jarret Stoll, Brown and Lewis to secure the win for the Stars.
“There was some great intensity in the game,” said Nystrom. “Guys were moving their feet and skating well. That’s a big rival for us and if you can’t get up for a game like that, you are playing the wrong sport. It was great energy with the guys and a huge win for us.”
*Stars forward Loui Eriksson has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) over the last 6 games.
*Stars center Mike Ribeiro missed his second straight game with a knee injury.
*Adam Pardy was the lone healthy scratch for Dallas.