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Stars’ Top Line Shines in 5-2 Victory of the Kings

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars put an end to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Martin Jones’ great run on Monday night. The Stars scored goals on their first two shots, tallied two more goals on Jones and then scored an empty net goal in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

It was the first time Jones, who lost for the first time in nine NHL starts, had allowed more than two goals in a game. The injury-riddled Stars were just the second team to score more than two goals on the Kings in the last 23 games.

“Tough building, tough team, it was quite the grind, quite the battle. But it was great to see the guys step up and really show some character,” said Seguin. “We’ve got a lot of guys down, like a lot of teams in the league right now, but it was nice to come out with the win.”

The Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn (one goal, two assists), Seguin (one goal, one assist) and Valeri Nichushkin (one goal) led the offensive charge. Benn provided more than offensive punch, dropping the gloves with Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr to register a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (goal, assist, fight) in the game.

Cody Eakin and Shawn Horcoff also scored and Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves for the Stars, who were playing without injured defenseman Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Sergei Gonchar and Aaron Rome.

“I think we played hard as a group,” said Benn. “I thought our back end played really well. We don’t have too much experience back there, but I thought they handled themselves well against one of the best teams in the league, and once again Kari was great.”

“We knew that to move up the standings, before we go back home, we had to have a real good effort tonight,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We thought, maybe, we were going to get out played by maybe a greater margin with the young defense, but I thought our young defense responded well to the challenge. It was a big two points for us.”

The Stars, who pushed their points streak to four games (3-0-1), are now 18-12-6 on the season. They head into the NHL’s three-day holiday break three points out of a playoff spot.

“We’re trying to gain points in a tough conference and the only way we are going to do it is beat good teams,” said Ruff.

The regulation loss was just the third in the last 23 games for the Kings (16-3-4).

"We weren't sharp as we wanted to be," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "Obviously they have some guys that can put the puck in the net. We wanted to manage the puck a little better and control the neutral zone and play in the offensive zone, and we didn't spend enough time there."

The Kings scored 2:28 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. With the two teams playing four-on-four, Justin Williams backhanded in the rebound of a Kopitar shot.

But the Stars answered with two goals on their first two shots to take a 2-1 lead. Benn circled out from behind the Los Angeles net and set up Seguin, who scored from the slot at the 3:48 mark to tie the game at 1-1. Benn made it a 2-1 game, picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone and scoring off the rush with a backhand shot from the right circle that beat Jones to the short side.

“It was huge,” Benn said of getting the two goals on two shots. “We know they’re a pretty tight team. They play a great team defensive game and they have a hot goalie. I think it was just a good way, to put pucks on net and find a way to get a good start.”

The Kings tallied late in the period to draw even. With a delayed penalty call on the Stars, Jarret Stoll scored off a shot from the right circle to make it a 2-2 game with 3:12 left in the first period.

The Stars went on a power play 3:42 into the second period, and cashed into take a 3-2 lead. Seguin sent a cross-ice pass to, who whipped the puck into the net from the right circle at the 5:07 mark. Nichushkin, Seguin and Benn have combined to score eleven goals over the last six games.

“First of all, they’re good players,” said Ruff. “Tyler’s got elite speed, Jamie’s got elite puck handling skills and shot, so does Tyler and I think the young 18-year-old is going to be something special.”

The Stars had two more power plays in the period, had some good chances, but couldn’t extend the lead and they took a 3-2 lead into the third period.

The Kings went on a power play with 8:32 remaining in the game, but the Stars killed it off thanks to Lehtonen saves on a Mike Richards redirection and an Alec Martinez shot from the slot.

The Stars scored a short time later to extend their lead to 4-2. After the Kings turned over the puck in their own end, Ryan Garbutt won the race to the loose puck and then made a slick pass to set up Eakin, who scored with 4:48 remaining in the game.

Horcoff rounded out the scoring, getting a goal when he was pulled down while breaking in on the empty net with 1:09 remaining in the game.

The Stars now head into the NHL’s holiday break. They open a five-game homestand on Friday when they take on the Nashville Predators at American Airlines Center.

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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