What a difference a week-and-a-half can make. Ten days ago the Los Angeles Kings rolled into American Airlines Center and dominated the Dallas Stars in a 3-2 win. Tuesday night, the Stars went toe-to-toe with the Kings for two periods, and then outscored them 4-0 in the third period to win 5-1.
“I think we limited the time in the zone by moving the puck north real quickly. We didn’t mess around with it. We just kept it going north. We had a purpose to our game that we’ve talked about all year,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I think the spanking we took from these guys a few weeks ago or however long it was is still lingering in our minds. We wanted to come out here, be direct, put pucks towards the net and get things away from our net as quick as possible. I thought we did a good job with that.”
The win was the third straight for the Stars (19-17-3) and moved them into ninth place in the Western Conference, two points behind eighth place Detroit. Both the Stars and Red Wings have nine games remaining.
The Stars, who were thought by many to be waving the white flag on the season when they dealt Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow prior to the trade deadline and filled the holes with young players, are a confident bunch right now.
“You can really sense the guys coming together and starting to believe in it,” said forward Ray Whitney, who scored two goals. “Anytime you have this many young guys in the lineup, you’re going to have effort. As long as you can harness it and put it in the right way, you’re going to have results.”
There was a downside to Tuesday’s win. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen left late in the first period with a groin injury and did not return. He’ll be re-evaluated on Wednesday. But the Stars got a big performance from back up Richard Bachman, who stopped all 22 shots he faced in relief.
“Solid, real solid,” Gulutzan said of Bachman’s play. “You could see his rebound control and his confidence, he’s out in his crease. He hasn’t played for a while so it’s good for him.”
“It was fun. It was fun to play again,” said Bachman. “Confidence-wise it is huge for me. More importantly, I hope I gave them (teammates) some confidence that if there is a need to have me in there I can help get the job done. Right now every game is huge and that’s a huge two points right there. We just need to keep moving forward from there.”
Bachman came up big in the second period when the Kings outshot the Stars 17-10 and had two big opportunities on the power play with the game tied 1-1. The first one came midway through the period when defenseman Aaron Rome went to the penalty box for four minutes after picking up a double minor for high sticking. The Stars killed that one off. Then they killed off a high sticking minor on defenseman Stephane Robidas.
“We talked about that in between the second and third. We’ve got to get some juice out of those because those are big penalty kills,” said Gulutzan. “We needed to get some energy off it. We talked about the guys that weren’t involved in the kills to get their energy level up in the third and they did.”
The Stars rattled off four unanswered goals in the third, starting with Whitney tallying from the slot at the 52-second mark to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
“I thought getting that goal early certainly helped,” said Gulutzan “We got a little energy from it and kept going.”
Vernon Fiddler tipped home a Stephane Robidas shot from the point to make it a 3-1 game at the 7:58 mark. Cody Eakin stole the puck in the Kings zone and that led to another Whitney goal at the 11:06 mark. Fiddler struck again, this time on a wrap-around at the 13:56 mark. All that added up to 5-1 Dallas victory.
“It seems things are clicking,” Fiddler said. “We’ve found a little bit of chemistry and we have to keep it going if we want to make the playoffs.”
*Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty and Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski scored first period goals in Tuesday’s game.
*The Stars, who had been outshot 113-58 in their first three meetings with the Kings this season, had a 31-30 shots advantage Tuesday.
*The Stars are 3-1-0 against the Kings this season, and have outscored them 14-6.
*Stars forward Vernon Fiddler matched a career-high with three points (two goals, one assist) in Tuesday’s game.
*Fiddler has points in four straight games (two goals, five assists).
*Stars forward Lane MacDermid missed his second straight game due to injury. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said MacDermid has a chest bruise and is expected to be out at least another week.
*Defenseman Jordie Benn was the lone healthy scratch for the Stars.