-- Michael Handzus scored his 10th goal of the season with just 21 seconds remaining to lift the Los Angeles Kings
to a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars
to capture the season series on Sunday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
"We tied it up but they kept coming," Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas
said. "Every game now is close, part of the reality of the NHL right now. It's a playoff race. We're fighting for points and every team is desperate."
Handzus' tally came just 22 seconds after Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner had knotted the game at 2-2 with his 10th goal of the season, knocking a rebound past Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick
"I was coming in, looking for the puck and got my stick down," Handzus said. "It's huge. It's two points and we need every point. Plus, they didn't get a point. When you score that late, it's a lot of fun."
With Sunday's victory, Los Angeles now has 83 points and is in sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference. Dallas remains at 82 and is tied for fifth with Chicago, which fell to Washington in overtime earlier in the day.
"They've been close games here with Dallas the last couple of years," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "We don't look at it as redemption, just an important hockey game in the standings in this division. That moves us a point ahead of them and win the season series against them."
Just 1:29 into the game, Dallas put the Kings on the power play after All-Star forward Loui Eriksson
took a tripping penalty. Los Angeles wasted little time making the Stars pay as Drew Doughty
connected on a slap shot from just inside the blue line at 3:04, beating Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen
on the glove side for his 11th of the season and first in six games.
Dallas went on the power play twice in the opening period but failed to convert on either opportunity. The Kings looked to add to their lead at 14:56 when center Anze Kopitar
, who had his second career hat trick Friday night at Columbus, launched a slap shot from about 30 feet, but his blast instead struck the right post.
The Stars went on the power play once again at 4:31 of the second period but despite several quality chances, the home side was unable to come away with a goal. Dallas did create a number of quality scoring chances in the second period, but Quick was some big saves to preserve the lead.
At 14:01 of the second period, Dustin Penner
's second goal as a King put the visitors ahead 2-0.
Penner, who came over from Edmonton at the trade deadline, was fed beautifully by Kopitar to the left of the Dallas goal, and the Kings winger skillfully knocked a writer past Lehtonen.
Only 23 seconds later, Penner almost scored again, but his wrister from 28 feet instead hit the post.
With two minutes left in the second period, Dallas finally broke through and killed the Kings' considerable momentum when Brad Richards scored his 25th goal on a breakaway to make it 2-1.
After the Stars killed a Kings chance in their own end, Eriksson spotted his teammate streaking into the Los Angeles zone and hit him in stride. Richards' wrist shot was slowed a bit by Quick, but still landed in the back of the net for his first goal since Feb. 13 -- the last game before he missed 10 straight with concussion-like symptoms.
"I thought the emotion that he (Richards) showed in the game … we haven't seen that in the first two games back," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "He's now finding that competitive level that he's been away from for the better part of a month. So that's a real positive sign on our side."
The Kings went on the power play twice in the third period but failed on both occasions, as the Stars' penalty kill allowed just one total shot for both opportunities.
Quick stopped 17 of 19 shots in the win. His career record against Dallas is now 9-3-0.
Despite Sunday's loss, Crawford saw plenty of positives to take from this defeat as his club continues a seven-game homestand on Tuesday against San Jose.
"It was a well-played game, very much like a playoff game with the hitting and the intensity," Crawford said. "We're going to be better for this. We just have to again not be disparaged by it and even though it is disheartening, we have to move forward from it."