Kings beat Stars 5-2
DALLAS -- A nine-second span helped transform a decent road trip into an outstanding road trip.
For the first 13 minutes of the second period Thursday, the Kings basically looked like what they were: a tired team, finishing a set of back-to-back games, plodding their way through a tie game.
Then Wayne Simmonds
cut to the net and Alexei Ponikarovksy knocked in a rebound. Nine seconds later, Simmonds finished his own scoring chance and the Kings had a two-goal lead. They went on to beat Dallas 5-2 before an announced 11,306 at American Airlines Center.
It's still early, but with a 7-3-0 record, the Kings are atop the Western Conference and have the most points in the NHL. They finished 3-2-0 on their eight-day road trip, a strong result given that they played two sets of back-to-back games and were without Drew Doughty
for the entire trip.
``It's a great road trip,'' coach Terry Murray said. ``I addressed the team at the end here, when we came in, that this win makes it a great road trip. That was hard. There were a lot of late nights, travel, and to finish it off with a big win against a division opponent like this makes it outstanding.''
, Willie Mitchell
and Justin Williams
also scored, and goalie Jonathan Quick
was brilliant in a 30-save effort as he improved his personal record to 6-1-0 this season.
The Kings were able to negate the sour taste from Wednesday night, when they outplayed the Chicago Blackhawks for the majority of the game but were offensively frustrated in a loss. Against the Stars, the Kings were outshot 32-24 but put five pucks in the Dallas net.
``Maybe it was a little bit of karma, for not getting the bounces the night before,'' Mitchell said. ``These games are really, really important -- the back-to-backs -- at the end of the year, especially against a division opponent, when you're trying to win the division. Good teams find a way to win them, and tonight we did so it's a good stepping stone for the team.''
The news wasn't all positive on Thursday, though. Simmonds suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury near the end of the second period and took one shift early in the third period but then had to leave the game. Murray did not disclose how serious SImmonds' injury might be.
``He just had a tough time there with twisting, turning,'' Murray said. Through a team spokesman, Simmonds declined to comment after the game.
Simmonds' play helped the Kings build a 4-1 early in the third period, and Williams scored into an empty net with 1:41 remaining after Dallas' Brandon Segal had made it a two-goal game.
Quick made it held up, and played arguably his best, most complete game of the season. He helped kill 5 of 6 Dallas power plays and made a couple all-world saves in the second period, including a lunging, post-to-post stop on Mike Ribeiro after a 2-on-1 Dallas break.
Quick stopped all 14 Stars shots in the second period as the Kings turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead.
``I think I've been extremely fortunate,'' Quick said. ``The team has come to play when I've been here. … Overall, I think it's just the team success. The team plays well and we played well tonight.''
Typically humble in victory, Quick drew strong praise from teammates and coaches.
``Quick was really good,'' Murray said. ``He made a couple saves there in the second period that were simply phenomenal. Phenomenal saves, and those are the timely plays that good goaltenders, they make those plays in the right situations. Real strong game, solid game for him. I was real happy to see him respond the way he did.''
Quick also helped compensate for the loss of Doughty, who will miss Saturday's game against New Jersey at STAPLES Center as well, but a major chunk of credit also goes to defenseman Jack Johnson
, who has stepped up in Doughty's absence and who had three assists Thursday.
Johnson has totaled six assists during the five games that Doughty has been out of the lineup and is now regularly the Kings' leader in minutes played, as well as the power-play quarterback.
Johnson's wrist shot attempt led to Brown's first-period power-play goal, and his second-period pass helped spring Simmonds on a breakaway for the Kings' third goal.
``I've been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time,'' Johnson said. ``Obviously we want to get Drew back as soon as possible, but we also don't want to rush him, with an injury like that. He's a huge part of this team. I know I've got a lot to offer this team, and that's what I'm trying to do.''
Johnson helped the Kings get on the board early.
The Kings got a 5-on-3 power play less than four minutes into the game, and scored at the 3:30 mark. Johnson shot from the right circle and hit the crossbar, but Brown was parked to the left of the net and basically needed only to poke the puck into the net to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
Dallas evened things up, literally, with its own 5-on-3 goal with 3:58 remaining in the first period. With traffic in front, Brad Richards beat Quick on a sharp wrist shot to make it 1-1.
A strong play by Simmonds, with under seven minutes remaining in an otherwise lackluster second period, gave the Kings a 2-1 lead. Simmonds made a power move to the net, from the right side, and Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen got a piece of the shot, but Ponikarovsky was in front to knock in the rebound with 6:55 remaining in the second.
After his nice assist on Ponikarovsky's goal, Simmonds got rewarded with a goal of his own just nine seconds later. Simmonds was sprung on a breakaway and tucked the puck around Lehtonen as he was being knocked into the net. A video review showed that the puck crossed the goal line before the net was knocked off.
A shorthanded goal gave the Kings a 4-1 lead 4:40 into the third period. Mitchell pressured the puck at the Kings' blue line and forced a turnover. Mitchell picked up the puck and started a rush, and Mitchell's attempt at a cross-ice pass went into the net off the skate of Dallas' Philip Larsen.
``I was surprised at the defenseman,'' Mitchell said. ``After I poked it, he kind of stepped up and Zeus kind of had a step on his guy to the net, so I was trying to find him going to the net. If you throw it around the net, once in a while you get a bounce, and it was a good bounce for us.''
Mitchell's goal was the first by a Kings defenseman this season, and Lehtonen was pulled after the goal, in favor of Andrew Raycroft. The Kings scored four goals on their first 15 shots.
The Stars pulled within two goals when Segal, a former Kings forward, scored with 9:50 remaining. Segal had the puck behind the Kings' net and took it wide. Quick stayed low, to play a possible wraparound, but Segal shot high, from a tough angle, and scored.
The Kings didn't give up many quality scoring chances over the final 10 minutes, though, and Williams' empty-net goal clinched the win and sent the Kings home feeling good.
``It was successful,'' Johnson said of the road trip. ``I think, truthfully, if you're going to win your games at home and go .500 on the road, you're going to have a great year. We're trying to win more than we lose on the road, take care of our home games and have a great year.''
|Three star selections