The Dallas Stars ended 2013 on a roll. The Stars defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2, Tuesday night at American Airlines Center to run their points streak to seven games (5-0-2).
The Stars have put together that seven-game streak against some pretty stiff competition. The Stars have two wins over Los Angeles, wins over both Vancouver and Colorado and they have picked up points in games against St. Louis and San Jose. The run has helped them pull to within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as the calendar year 2013 came to a close.
“There was a point where we were playing a pretty good brand of hockey, collecting some points and not gaining any ground and it was almost disheartening,” said Stars forward Erik Cole. “Instead of winning a game and looking to see if we gained ground on anybody, we just decided that we’re in the mix, not to worry about it and focus on our play and do what we can do to win games. If we focus on that then we’ll wake up one day in fifth place or fourth or whatever.”
The Stars have outscored their opponents 23-13 during the streak. In six of the seven games they have allowed two goals or fewer.
“I think we know our identity. That is to be good defensively and then use our team speed when we have a chance,” said Stars forward Rich Peverley. “If we play well and create turnovers, there are not a lot of teams in the league that can skate with us. We have four lines and six D that can all skate, and that’s really important.”
The Stars scored twice on the power play in building a 3-1 lead and then put the clamps down in the third period as they protected a one-goal lead. Cole scored two goals for the Stars. Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist and Alex Chiasson had two assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 23 of 25 shots to improve to 4-0-2 over his last six starts.
The Kings dropped their fourth straight game in regulation and fell to 25-12-4 on the season.
“I thought we played really well,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “We’re not scoring any goals right now. We’ve played well enough to win other than the game before Christmas, we easily could have won the last three. That’s the way it goes.”
The first period featured six minor penalties – three on both teams – and a lot of special teams play. A quick succession of penalties on both teams left the Kings with a four-on-three advantage for 38 seconds and they cashed in to take a 1-0 lead. A Mike Richards shot from the point deflected off Carter and past Lehtonen at 12:23 of the first.
With the two teams playing five-on-five, Lehtonen came up big at the 14:27 mark, stopping Justin Williams’ bid from the slot to keep the Stars within one goal.
The Stars went on a power play one minute later and the Stars took advantage to tie the game when Cole knocked home the rebound of a Tyler Seguin blast from the left circle at the 15:58 mark to make it a 1-1 score.
“Segs made a great shot and the rebound just sat there for me,” Cole said.
The Stars went on a power play 29 seconds into the second when Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell took a delay of game penalty, had some great chances, but couldn’t take the lead.
The Stars went on another power play at the 11:34 mark and cashed in to take a 2-1 lead. Seguin grabbed a rebound of an Alex Chiasson shot off the end boards and put it in to the open side of the net from a sharp angle at 12:13 of the period.
A little more than three minutes later the Stars had a 3-1 lead. Some great work by Peverley set up Cole, who beat Kings goaltender Ben Scrivens with a shot from the bottom of the left circle.
“Pevs did a great job of buying some time in the offensive zone twice and I was able to put it in,” said Cole.
The Kings cut the lead to 3-2 early in the third period when Anze Kopitar came up with a loose puck in the Dallas zone and scored on a snap shot from the left circle at the 1:05 mark of the period. But after that the Stars gave the Kings very little. Los Angeles had five shots in the third and a Jake Muzzin shot that hit the post with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
“We were as solid as we could be,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “You are going to have to give up some opportunities; we may have given up one other one – the one that hit the post. But I thought we still played, we moved the puck well and we just didn’t sit back and let them come at us. We held them to five shots and did a nice job in our end.”
The victory gave the Stars a 2-0-1 mark on their current homestand, an 8-3-4 record in December and has them 20-12-7 on the season. The homestand continues Thursday when Montreal comes to town.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.