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Stars win a wild one in Los Angeles

Jiri Hudler scores game-winner as Stars top Kings 6-4, pull to within two points of playoff spot

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

It was wild, and it was two points for the Dallas Stars. A big two points. The Stars defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 6-4, at Staples Center Monday night to pull to within two points of a playoff spot as they hit the halfway point of the season.

The Stars, despite plenty of ups and downs over the first half of the season, are 17-16-8 (42 points) and only two points behind Los Angeles, which currently holds the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

"This league is so tight right now. This two gets us to two points within them," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "It's an important two points in the standings."

Monday's game was a wild one especially in the third period when the Stars and Kings combined for five goals in a 5:28 span. Stars forward Jiri Hudler's goal - his first as a Star - at 7:44 of the third snapped a 4-4 tie and held up as the game-winner.

Brett Ritchie, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Oleksiak, Devin Shore and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Stars, who tallied five times at even-strength in the game. The Stars, who have been hoping for some better puck luck, got a few favorable bounces Monday night.

"We had some good bounces tonight," Seguin said. "It was a great character win. That's a big, heavy team over there and I thought we competed with them the whole night."

"We got some pucks there, and some pucks went off some bodies," Ruff said. "I thought we deserved to win the game. We played hard. It was a hard game. And in the end, I thought we deserved to win."

Video: Stars score three in the 3rd to top Kings, 6-4

Both teams changed goaltenders in the game. Kari Lehtonen started for the Stars and was pulled in the third period after allowing four goals on 21 shots. Antti Niemi played the rest of the way and face one shot and stopped it. It was the second straight game Lehtonen has been pulled.

"[Lehtonen] has had some tough times. I just got to the point where I thought I had to pull the trigger," Ruff said. "We're battling for our lives, and I know [Lehtonen] is battling too."

Peter Budaj stopped 17 of 22 shots for the Kings (20-17-4) and was replaced by Jeff Zatkoff who stopped all three shots he faced.

"I think when you give up five goals it's probably a little of both [goaltender and defense]," Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said, "but our goaltender was certainly seeing it, finding it, knowing where it was."

Shots were 7-7 in the first period but the Stars scored the only goal, and it came in the final minute. After Kings forward Jeff Carter coughed up the puck near the Los Angeles net, Lauri Korpikoski set up Ritchie who scored from close range at the 19:03 mark.

The Stars had six shots on goal in the first two minutes of the second period, including a couple of quality looks. But it was some puck luck that allowed them to extend their lead to 2-0 midway through the period. A Seguin shot hit the stick of Kings defender Jake Muzzin and went up and over Budaj and into the net at the 9:03 mark.

The Kings cut into the lead at the 15:05 mark of the second. Just after the Stars went on a power play following 90 seconds of four-on-four play, Nick Shore scored shorthanded off the rush to make it a 2-1 game.

But the Stars extended the lead to 3-1 late in the period. After a Radek Faksa faceoff win in the Kings zone, Oleksiak scored off a shot from the point at the 17:43 mark.

The early part of the third period was fast-paced on the scoring front. Kings forward Dustin Brown scored on the power play at 2:16 to cut the Dallas lead to 3-2. Just 43 seconds later, Devin Shore scored for Dallas to make it 4-2. Just 81 seconds later Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored off the rush, and it was a 4-3 game. Then it was tied 58 seconds later when Kings defenseman Drew Doughty scored off a blast from the point with Los Angles on the power play.

And 2:26 after that, there was a bad exchange between Budaj and Muzzin and Hudler scored from close range to give Dallas the lead for good. Sharp sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 53 seconds remaining.

"It was one of those games and we found a way to win," Seguin said. "It was nice."

Notes: Jamie Benn skates, a possibility for Tuesday

*Stars captain Jamie Benn missed his third straight game with a foot injury. But he did take part in Monday morning's skate and is a possibility for Tuesday's game in Anaheim.

"A possibility [for Tuesday]," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We'll see how he responded from today, but he is definitely getting better."

*The Stars finished the season 2-0-1 against the Kings.

*The Stars are 8-2-2 vs. the Pacific Division this season.

*The Stars outshot the Kings 26-22. Los Angeles had a 64-44 advantage in shot attempts.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with 7 shots on goal and 9 shot attempts.

*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 1-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars have allowed eight power-play goals over the past four games.

*The Stars won 36 of 70 faceoffs (51 percent). Radek Faksa won 13 of 21 faceoffs (62 percent) for Dallas.

*Esa Lindell led Dallas with 22:26 of ice time and was a game-high plus-four on the night.

What's Next

The Stars wrap up their three-game road trip Tuesday when they take on the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. The Stars are 2-0-0 against the Ducks this season, outscoring them 10-4.

Stars Lineup

Jiri Hudler - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jamie Oleksiak
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Stephen Johns, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Jamie Benn (foot), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

This story was not subject to 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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