DALLAS – Early troubles made things difficult for the Kings Saturday night in Dallas, as a valiant comeback effort fell just short in their 5-4 loss to the Stars at American Airlines Center.
Players and coaches often stress the importance of a solid start when on the road, which was not the case for the Kings, who allowed three first period goals, and found themselves facing a four-goal deficit early in the second period.
“Well it could have gotten embarrassing, certainly,” Justin Williams said following the loss. “We manned up and made a game of it, but it doesn’t really give us much solace right now. We’ll learn from that just like every opportunity lets us do.”
The Kings’ power play, which came into the evening hot, scoring on six of their last 11 man-advantage opportunities, fell cold early as Dallas ran away with the early lead. The Kings were granted three power plays during the first period, but couldn’t execute on any of them.
Dallas’ Jamie Benn struck for two goals in the opening frame, John Klingberg with the other Stars goal, as they beat Jonathan Quick for three goals on 13 first period shots.
The Stars pushed their lead to 4-0 when Tyler Seguin received a stretch pass from goaltender Kari Lehtonen and skated in alone to beat Jonathan Quick with a shot low through the five hole.
With just over ten minutes to play in the second, Tanner Pearson got the Kings on the board, knocking a loose rebound past Lehtonen. Jake Muzzin fired a wrist shot from atop Dallas’ zone, and after a couple of quick bounces, including one off of Kyle Clifford’s skate, Pearson hounded on the free puck and buried it.
For Pearson, it was his second goal in as many games after being held scoreless for 11 consecutive contests. It was Pearson’s ninth goal of the season, and he once again leads the Kings’ roster in that category.
Less than three minutes after Pearson got the Kings on the board, Justin Williams struck on what was the Kings’ fourth power play of the evening. Brayden McNabb set up the goal with a shot from the point that Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen couldn’t smother, and Williams pounced on the rebound.
Williams, with a diving backhand, chipped McNabb’s rebound past Lehtonen, scoring his third goal of the season to cut the score to 4-2.
Jason Demers, playing in his first game with the Dallas Stars after being traded from the San Jose Sharks on Friday, put the Stars back up 5-2 with a blistering slap shot on a Dallas power play with just over two minutes remaining in the second.
Only :36 seconds later, Mike Richards responded for the Kings, scoring his third goal of the season to bring the score back to 5-3. Richards, who was on a two-on-one with Tyler Toffoli, looked to make a last-second back-door pass. Richards’ pass attempt deflected off the stick of Dallas defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka and past Kari Lehtonen, giving the Kings their third goal of the evening.
With just over nine minutes remaining in regulation time, Justin Williams got the Kings as close as they would come to tying the game all night.
Off of an offensive zone faceoff that the Kings won, Dustin Brown fired a wrist shot that Kari Lehtonen couldn’t settle down for a whistle. Williams, stationed in front of Dallas’ net, hopped on the rebound, spun and shot, and with the help of a carom off the stick of Jason Demers, potted the Kings’ fourth goal of the evening.
It was Williams’ second goal of the night.
The Kings outshot the Stars 16-2 in the third period, but couldn’t get a fifth goal past the Stars’ Lehtonen, who made a combined 37 saves on the evening.
With eight road games played so far this season, the Kings have only won once – November 4 against the Stars at American Airlines Center. They play eight of their next 11 games on the road.
“We’re used to playing at Staples and having a crowd behind us,” Mike Richards said after the game. “I think when you’re on the road, you need to create your own momentum. I think that’s what we have to start doing.”
Justin Williams and Tanner Pearson led all Kings players in shots taken (5), Robyn Regehr in hits delivered (6), Jarret Stoll in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (33:07). Jonathan Quick made 18 saves in the loss.
With the loss, the Kings’ record falls to 11-6-4. On the road this season, the Kings are now 1-4-3. They’ll continue their three-game road trip Tuesday night in Tennessee as they take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The puck is slated to drop at 5:00PM PT.
*Reporting from El Segundo, CA