The Los Angeles Kings finally got some offense from the depth scorers and the Dallas Stars had too many turnovers from their defense once again as the Kings beat the Stars 4-2 in a late afternoon tilt at the American Airlines Center.
It wasn't the volume of defensive zone turnovers that plagued the Stars on Sunday but instead the Kings ability to convert on them.
It started when Nicklas Grossman gave up the puck behind his own net and Dwight King picked up the first goal of his career after the puck moved to the slot. Then after Stephane Robidas was called for holding the stick, Andrew Loktioniv picked up his second goal of the season on a funky deflection high in the slot.
The Stars clawed their way back into the game as two of their top scorers got needed tallies. Loui Eriksson broke out of a scoring slump midway through the second period as Alex Goligoski's pass made its way between the legs of Jack Johnson. Michael Ryder tied the game early in the third on a laser of a wrist shot from the slot.
But somewhat appropriately, the game winner also came off a turnover as Goligoski lost the puck along the wall and Philip Larsen got caught cheating for an outlet pass and not covering the front of the net. With nobody in front of the net, it was an easy wrister for Jordan Nolan, also the first NHL goal of his career.
Justin Williams capped off the afternoon with an empty netter to seal Dallas' fate after the Kings sealed off the interior of the ice with the empty net.
The loss leaves the Stars three points back of eighth place Phoenix and six back of the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, who are tied for sixth.
More thoughts on the loss after the jump.
- The Stars didn't play that poorly, all things considered. They held the Kings to just 15 shots and had the majority of the zone time. Most of the Kings chances were the direct result of Stars turnovers. Heck, even the power play where Loktionov scored was drawn because Robidas turned the puck over then had to hook onto a guy's arm in order to clear. That said, they have reached the point of the season where just playing better than the other team doesn't matter because points are pivotal.
- It was a rough day to be a Stars defenseman in his own end. Two of the three Kings goals outside of the empty netter were the direct result of turnovers by defensemen, and on the Goligoski goal, Larsen and Mike Ribeiro's failure to communicate who was going to pick up Nolan going to the net was also crucial. While I appreciate the outlet Larsen was trying to give Goligoski, he made that decision before Goligoski had control of the puck. Once it was turned over, he had to go around the other side of the net, and by that time, Nolan had already taken advantage of the space Larsen left him and scored. Ribeiro also bears some responsibility as he took Nolan to the middle of the circle before releasing him to the overly-aggressive Larsen.
- Kari Lehtonen probably wishes he had this one back. While he didn't play poorly per se and the second goal was a pretty lucky deflection in the high slot, his save percentage was only 80 percent. When you only give up 15 shots, you should almost never give up four goals.
- Nicklas Grossman would also probably like to burn the tape of this one. While his positioning was okay, he seems to have developed a case of the yips with the puck recently and had a few critical turnovers. He only played three shifts in the third period, all in the first part of it, so he was either benched or had some other reason to miss ice time.
- Special teams were pretty crucial as well today. The Stars couldn't score a power play goal and gave up one to the Kings. The PK has gone into one of its funks recently, though like I said above, the deflection on this one isn't necessarily a skill play.
- Mike Ribeiro's line was very solid. All three of them had at least one point, and they were dangerous from the opening face off. I know Ribeiro makes people crazy with how he slows the game down, but you have to get cross-ice passing established on a goalie of Quick's caliber. Unscreened shots off the rush aren't going to cut it unless it's Ryder's laser of a wrist shot.
- On the other hand, you'd really like to see more from Jamie Benn in games like this. The Kings were trying to check him into submission, and they did a pretty solid job. Steve Ott and Tomas Vincour did good jobs at puck retrieval. To his credit, Benn did have five shots in just under 20 minutes of ice time, but his line didn't dictate in the offensive zone like Ribeiro's did.
- Finally, I know Razor brought up why not just shoot the wrister into the pile in the final few seconds before the empty netter. One of the great things I learned from Sergei Zubov and Brett Hull was that shooting at a big pile of legs might seem tempting but it usually just results in the puck deflecting out to neutral. I could see what they were trying to do - quick lateral passes that would open up a momentary lane with only 1-2 sets of legs to shoot through. No, it didn't work, but that doesn't mean the strategy wasn't sound.
- The playoff math is getting a little trickier, but I would take Sunday's effort over several that we've seen recently. Yes, the score doesn't reflect what they need it to, and to not win when they played fairly well is rather disheartening. But there were mentally there for the most part. They hit, they forechecked and they created a decent number of chances. Give me this effort over the one put out there in the shootout win over the Minnesota Wild any day of the week.