The Stars, who have struggled to put together complete games, played a solid 60 minutes. They were especially strong defensively, not giving the Kings much in the way of opportunities. For the first time this season, the Stars held an opponent to fewer than two goals.
“It (a strong defensive game) was important, especially on the road, and against a team like that,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “They were coming off a game last night. We knew what kind of game we wanted to play and for the most part, we did it.”
The Stars were impressive in the third period as they protected a 2-0 lead. They held Los Angeles to just five shots on goal.
“I thought our third period was a real good period for us,” said center Jason Spezza. “We’ve struggled with the lead a little bit this season and that was a good step in the right direction to lock it down like that.”
Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen turned in a 27-save shutout that included a save of the year candidate. It was the first shutout of the season for Lehtonen and the 28th of his career. Lehtonen, who has had some ups and downs to start the season, has put together back-to-back stellar performances.
“To me he looks like his old self. He’s more aggressive. He’s on his toes,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Before he looked a little bit on the nervous side, but now he is playing.”
Ryan Garbutt and Spezza scored goals for the Stars, who improved to 6-6-4 overall and to 5-3-0 on the road.
“I thought it was a good win for our club,” said Ruff. “We knew we had them on a back-to-back. I thought we came out pretty good in the first period. They had a little push in the second. I thought we responded pretty well. We needed the one real big save from our goaltender. But other than that, I thought we played a pretty clean game defensively where we didn’t give up a lot of good opportunities.”
The Kings lost their second straight game and fell to 8-5-4 on the season. Thursday’s loss was just their second regulation loss at home this season (7-2-1).
“We chased the game. We chased it from the first period on,” said Kings forward Justin Williams. “On a back-to-back that’s tough, but it just simply wasn’t good enough. There wasn’t enough fight, and our power play wasn’t great as well. We didn’t score a big goal like we needed tonight. Sometimes you need that.”
The Stars had a strong push to start the game, registering eight of the first 11 shots on the night. They got the only goal of the first period as well. After Lehtonen made a nice pad stop on a Dwight King shorthanded bid, Garbutt scored off the rush, knocking home the rebound of his own shot to put Dallas up 1-0 at the 13:13 mark.
The Stars appeared to take a 2-0 lead at 7:20 of the second period when Jamie Benn scored, but the goal was waved off after the officials huddled and determined the puck went out of play before Benn scored. But less than a minute later Benn set up Spezza, who scored from the slot to make it a 2-0 game at the 8:13 mark.
Lehtonen kept it a 2-0 game with 6:43 left in the period when he made a spectacular glove save on a point-blank chance by Jarret Stoll.
“That was unbelievable,” said Garbutt. “That was awesome seeing a save like that. It really lifts the team.”
“Unbelievable,” said Goligoski. “Not a lot of goalies can do that. That is why he is special.”
“It’s one of those things that maybe one out of 50 times you’re able to get it,” Lehtonen said. “It sure felt good and I was happy about it. There is not much to do with goaltending when you’re just scrambling, and he ends up hitting the glove. I have to be happy about that.”
The Stars then locked it down in the third period, outshooting the Kings 8-5 to preserve the lead and put together consecutive wins following a rough stretch where they went winless in seven straight.
“When you are in a long losing streak, I don’t think we were playing as bad as we thought we were. When you are winning, you aren’t playing as good as you think you are,” said Spezza. “That first one is tough to get when you are in a long one like we were in. Getting that win in Phoenix (Tuesday), the way we did with the big goal, gave us some confidence to come in here and play a good road game.”
Eaves injured, Eakin returns, Hemsky scratched
*Stars forward Patrick Eaves left Thursday’s game midway through the second period with a lower body injury. He did not return.
“He blocked a shot. Right now it’s nothing serious,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He may miss a little bit of time with it.”
*Stars center Cody Eakin returned to action after missing the previous three games with an upper body injury. He played 16:39, had one shot on goal and was a plus-one.
*Stars forward Ales Hemsky was a healthy scratch.
*Defenseman John Klingberg had another solid game. Playing in his second NHL game, Klingberg logged 23:46 of ice time. Only Alex Goligoski (24:26) and Trevor Daley (23:55) played more for Dallas. Los Angeles media selected him as the third star of the game.
“He’s done a nice job. It looks like he is ready to play,” Ruff said of Klingberg. “He’s made a lot of good plays. He’s showed composure that maybe a lot of young guys have a tough time with. He’s got a good stick, which is important for a defenseman.”
*Stars forward Curtis McKenzie and Kings forward Kyle Clifford fought 1:36 into the game. It was McKenzie’s first NHL fight.
*Forward Travis Moen, acquired from Montreal on Tuesday, is expected to join the team Friday in Dallas.
*The Stars are 6-1-1 in their last eight games at Staples Center.
*Both teams had 27 shots on goal.
*Ryan Garbutt led the Stars with eight shots on goal.
*Garbutt has scored a goal in consecutive games, both game-winners.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill. The Stars are 9-9 on the penalty kill over the past two games.
*The Stars won 32 of 65 faceoffs (49 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 8 of 11 draws (73 percent). Shawn Horcoff won 7 of 12 (58 percent). Jason Spezza won 7 of 15 (47 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 21 (38 percent).
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Jordie Benn – Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Brenden Dillon – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Ales Hemsky, Kevin Connauton, Travis Moen
Injured: RW Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
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.