The emergence of the Los Angeles Kings' backup goaltender has the club looking to win three straight games for the first time this season on Tuesday when it hosts the struggling Dallas Stars.
Los Angeles (5-6-2) opened its season-high seven-game homestand 0-2-2, but has won its last two games thanks in part to unsung goaltender Erik Ersberg.
Jason LaBarbera was in goal for each of the Kings' first 10 games, but Ersberg's play is making it difficult for coach Terry Murray to take him out. He made his third consecutive start Saturday, and stopped 24 shots in the Kings' 5-3 victory over St. Louis.
Ersberg made 26 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss to Anaheim in his first start last Tuesday, and then stopped 13 shots in a 3-2 victory over Florida on Thursday. The Kings are 8-5-3 over the past two seasons in games started by Ersberg, who is 5-2-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average and two shutouts in eight starts at Staples Center.
"It was a great week, two wins in the last two games and it's fun for me to play games, too," Ersberg said. "When we play like we say we are going to play I think we are a tough team to beat. When we play our system right and everybody is digging in and working hard it's going to be tough to come and beat us here."
Los Angeles' power-play unit also stepped up Saturday, as Alexander Frolov, Tom Preissing and Drew Doughty all scored with the man advantage. The Kings converted 3 of 6 power-play opportunities Saturday after going just 2-for-23 over their previous four games.
Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists against the Blues, ending an eight-game goal-scoring drought for the center, whose 32 goals ranked second on the Kings last season.
"I'm personally pretty happy and I'm sure the other guys are pretty happy," said Kopitar, who had three goals in eight games against the Stars last season. "Hopefully we can keep on going."
Los Angeles split its eight-game season series with Dallas in 2007-08, but won three of four meetings at Staples Center.
The Stars (5-7-2) fell to 1-3-0 on their season-high five-game road trip after Saturday's 2-1 loss at San Jose.
Mary Turco stopped Brad Lukowich's long dump-in shot for his 31st save late in the third period, but the Stars goalie then inexplicably attempted to backhand the puck up the middle of the ice. The puck hit the skate of San Jose captain Patrick Marleau, who scored the game-winner with 28.3 seconds remaining.
Turco's gaffe wasn't the only problem, as Dallas had another inconsistent showing from its offense. The Stars defeated Anaheim 5-2 on Friday, but have scored a total of four goals in their three losses on the trip.
"We've got no regrets, and Marty played a heck of a game, made some big saves and some critical ones," said Dallas captain Brenden Morrow, who had four goals and five assists in the eight games against the Kings last season. "We're a team that's trying to find themselves. We played pretty solid and gave ourselves a chance."