In the last matchup between these teams last Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick shut out the Dallas Stars, 1-0. In Thursday's matchup between the top two Pacific Division teams, Quick didn't have a shutout, but between his performance and a well-spread offense tonight, the Kings defeated the Stars, 5-3, to get back on track after losing 3-0 to the Devils on Tuesday.
Both teams have hardly had any power play opportunities within the last few games. Even in the last Kings vs. Stars game, while each squad had three minors assessed, a lot of the power play time was shared. However, tonight they combined for 13 penalties, giving both units a few more chances to play their offensive styles.
The very first penalties resulted in a 4-on-4 almost midway through the first period, but the Stars earned their first full power play at 12:10. After a dump-in from the defensive zone, Dallas beat the icing call and were able to keep the puck alive for more shots. In the waning seconds of the power play, they moved the puck up to the crease where Trevor Daley banged it in past Quick. Until the Daley power play marker, Quick had a shutout streak that ended at 202:11.
As the first period ended with the Stars killing off two straight penalties, the Kings started the second period with all the momentum and took advantage three minutes in with a Justin Williams goal captured from a deflection off of Kari Lehtonen. By the end of the second frame, the Scott Parse and rookie Slava Voynov scored their first goals and points of the season, putting the Kings up 3-1. Before tonight, Lehtonen hadn't given up three goals (Andrew Raycroft started in Dallas' 5-2 loss).
Dallas took a page out of the L.A.'s book in the third, however, and after an early-period penalty on Parse for interference, the Stars' regained momentum and flow. Once back on even strength, Michael Ryder put a loose puck behind Quick over the line for a goal. Just over four minutes later, Eric Nystrom nabbed his first goal of the year and tied the game at 3-3.
Since the call on L.A. early in the third, the refs swallowed their whistles for a bit, yet that didn't stop the Kings from using their gameplan. The Stars had blocked plenty of the Kings' shots all night, but in the seventh minute, the 21-year-old Russian, Voynov, struck again, continuing the trend of bypassing the puck through Stars bodies from plays set up at the blueline.
A potential Anze Kopitar goal was waived off, but despite Dallas' efforts on their last power play of the game, Dustin Brown took a pass from Mike Richards out of the zone and dumped it in to the empty net to seal the deal, 5-3.
The power play, while not a factor throughout the entire game (only one power play goal per team), it gave way for both teams to jumpstart their offenses and set up the way they wanted. Dallas scored every goal as a result of plays that started from behind the net, brought to the front and tapping in rebounds and loose pucks in or around the crease. Los Angeles benefitted from having the opportunity to start up at the point, then move the puck down low to bank-in on a deflection. Both, dealing with middle-of-the-pack offenses at this point, seemed to have found flow in their preferred styles tonight.
However, the Stars would have benefited the most from taking this game. Coming into the season, Dallas was not expected to do much offensively without Brad Richards in the lineup. With teams like the Sharks, Ducks and Kings in the same division, they would need to match up to their levels of offense. So far, they have gotten the job of winning games done by spreading out their offensive production, and even more through the work of their solid defense and Lehtonen -- but it sure won't last long with a 13.9 power play percentage and a mid-level penalty-killing unit.
The Kings should give themselves a pat on the back for this one, though, especially after Tuesday's 3-0 loss. Although L.A. has done very well lately, they, too, aren't able to score much and are almost solely relying on the top line for goals. Even though they look much improved with the man-advantage over last year's 21st-ranked power play (16.7-percent, to be exact), gaining extra support from guys like Voynov and Brown will need to continue if they really are the team to beat in the Pacific and to be finally primed for a deep run in the playoffs. It certainly doesn't hurt to have Quick and Jonathan Bernier to add their goaltending prowess for additional help and confidence.
As the season progresses, expect teams like the Ducks and Sharks to get hot. The Kings and Stars will need to stick to their guns to prove their early season successes to be for real.