LOS ANGELES – In one locker room, Dustin Brown ribbed Anze Kopitar before a scrum of reporters.
Down the hall, Stephane Robidas still hadn't taken off his skates and shin pads as he sat with teammates who held their heads in their hands.
Such are the emotional swings of the Stanley Cup Playoff race, and this swung hard and chaotic before the Los Angeles Kings pulled out a 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars in a wild affair Sunday at Staples Center.
The game-winner was appropriate – a wrist shot by Mike Richards from a steep angle on the left side that deflected off Jeff Carter's shoulder. Brown added two goals as Los Angeles moved two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks for fourth place in the Western Conference. It assured the Kings of finishing no lower than sixth.
"Tonight was a good effort, and battling against adversity is a good thing for this group," Brown said. "We did it tonight. The thing is, this group of guys has been together and have had to deal with a lot worse than what we saw tonight. So I think that's just keeping it going."
Dallas was trying to win in Los Angeles for the fifth straight time, but came out with one point and sits in 10th place in the West. It erased a 2-0 deficit and took a 3-2 lead, but seemed to get worn down in overtime.
"It's tough because we needed the point," Robidas said. "The good thing is we got a point. We're still in this."
Brown and Richards were among the top players that Kings coach Darryl Sutter called out as a reason for the Stars' success against L.A. – three wins in four previous meetings. Dallas had handed L.A. half of its four regulation losses at home this season.
"It's pretty easy to take note when Darryl calls you out," Brown said.
Brown's second goal made it 3-3 early in the third as the Kings finally converted on their seventh power play. Kopitar's rebound came directly to Brown on the left side and the latter buried it to bring the crowd alive.
Carter was credited with his 25th goal to keep pace among the League leaders.
"That's not a surprise to me," Jonathan Quick said. "If they counted the ones in practice – I can't stop them. I'm glad we traded for him last year."
Dallas erased a 2-0 deficit and took a 3-2 lead 43 seconds into the third when Alex Goligoski scored into an open net after the Stars flustered the Kings behind the goal line and Cody Eakin nudged the puck to Goligoski.
The Stars' second-period comeback came on a controversial goal. Ryan Garbutt appeared to tip Goligoski's shot with a high stick on its way to the net, and Antoine Roussel swooped in and buried the puck at 14:54. Quick came out to argue and slammed his stick on the ice, but the play was upheld after video review.
"The way they explained it to me was – if it went in the net it would have been a no goal because it was a high stick above the crossbar, but because it was a high stick above the crossbar but below his shoulder – that's [the reason]," Brown said.
Roussel left the game late in the third when he appeared to be hit by Brown. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan did not have an update. Gulutzan liked the competitiveness and resiliency of his team, which finishes out against the teams ahead of it -- San Jose, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings.
"We still control our destiny with the teams we have left to play," Gulutzan said.
Gulutzan also alluded to giving L.A. seven power plays and said, "I thought that people were more involved than they needed to be and, "we had to be a little bit more disciplined. But that's the game."
The Stars could also point to being outshot, 4-0, in overtime.
"Our work ethic was there as it has been for a while now, so it's always good to see," Goligoski said. "Points are huge right now and to battle back a little bit to get one point … but we kind of let it slip right there, but we just got to move on and if we win these next three, we feel like we have a pretty good shot here."
Quick was outstanding in the second period and made a pad save on Loui Eriksson in the final minute. He stopped Eric Nystrom on a partial shorthanded breakaway and made two other stops on Eriksson and Reilly Smith. Quick also closed the pads on Garbutt in the third.
Eriksson cut it to 2-1 with his second goal in 17 games, on a chop of a loose puck with Robyn Regehr in his face at 4:32. It came 40 seconds Brown zinged a wrist shot from a steep angle from the left circle.
The game's first goal came largely because of an impressive drive around the net by Dustin Penner, who turned and fired the puck to a stationed Richards before the latter flipped a backhand high past a frozen Kari Lehtonen.