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Stars move into playoff position with win at L.A

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LOS ANGELES -- Another day, another game with serious implications in the Western Conference playoff race.

But not another win for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Dallas Stars, nipping at the Kings' heels in the conference standings but on the outside of the playoff picture coming in, handed the Kings their first regulation home loss since opening night, taking a 5-2 win Thursday at Staples Center.

In the process, Dallas (12-9-2) drew even with Los Angeles (12-8-2) with 26 points and leaped from ninth place into a four-way tie for fifth.

Jaromir Jagr, continuing to defy age and common wisdom, scored twice for the Stars, including a backbreaker midway through the third period to put Dallas up 4-2.

Back in the NHL for a second year -- but his first season with the Stars -- after spending the previous three in Kontinental Hockey League, the 41-year-old veteran has nine goals on the season.

Jagr spent last year with the Philadelphia Flyers, but after growing impatient over the summer, he signed with the Stars for one year at $4.55 million. It was a significant raise, and with it came a bigger role.

"I'm getting paid a lot more money than I did last year, so I have more responsibility on the power play and scoring goals," Jagr said. "So I have to change my thinking a little bit. I have to be more hungry for the goals than I was last year."

Meanwhile, halfway through the season, some of his younger teammates are moving beyond the awe of playing alongside an NHL legend and simply accepting him as a teammate.

"As time goes on, you get comfortable and you get to know him a little bit," said Stars center Cody Eakin, who scored in the second period. "But it's still pretty neat."

Antoine Roussel added an empty-netter for the Stars' final goal.

The loss was the Kings' first in regulation at home since falling to the Chicago Blackhawks to open the season on Jan. 19. Los Angeles had won six straight at Staples Center.

"If you're giving up four goals a game, you can't win," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "You need better goaltending and better defense, simple."

Not that the Kings didn't have their chances. They outshot the Stars 33-22 but managed just two goals against Kari Lehtonen, who finished with 31 saves.

Lehtonen is 7-1 in his past eight starts.

"We had a few days off, which was different because this year we usually play every other night or more," Lehtonen said. "So it was nice to get three days off, and after that come out strong."

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick surrendered four goals on 21 shots.

"Yeah, I didn't stop them, and usually when you don't stop pucks, they go in," Quick said.

An entertaining first period ended in a 1-1 tie on goals by Jagr and the Kings' Trevor Lewis.

Jagr got it started, beating Quick with a power-play goal.

Lewis answered with his third goal of the season, spinning to the right of Lehtonen, then beating him over his left shoulder to make it 1-1.

Red-hot Jeff Carter supplied the go-ahead goal for the Kings in the second period, sneaking his 16th goal of the year past Lehtonen on a wrist shot to make it 2-1.

The Stars pulled even when Eakin streaked past the Kings defense on a power play and shoveled a shot past Quick to make it 2-2 with just over one minute remaining in the second.

"At that point it's anybody's game," Lehtonen said.

But then the Stars erupted for three straight goals to put it away.

Brandon Morrow scored 5:15 into the third period, Jagr added a goal four minutes later, and Roussel iced the victory in the last two minutes.

"I thought we bent a little bit in that second period," Eakin said, "but we stuck with it and stuck with our system."

And in the process, they drew even with the Kings in the standings.

"They definitely have a different look from last year," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "They have a lot of new guys in the lineup with a lot of energy. It's a divisional game, and they found a way to win."

NOTES: The Kings were on a serious roll coming, winning seven of their previous eight while outscoring opponents 30-16. Their 7-1-1 home record was tied for the fourth-best home start in club history. ... Kings center Jeff Carter, who is surging with 16 goals and 18 points in his past 20 games, ranks second in the NHL with 15 goals. Carter also leads the league in game-winning goals with four. ... Fellow center Anze Kopitar has 20 points in his past 18 games and 15 over the past 12. ... Dallas has won four of its past five games against the Kings, including the past three at Staples Center. ... Since returning from injury March 4, Stars center Derek Roy has 12 points, five of which have come in his past three games. Roy has nine points in seven games against the Kings. ... The Stars and Kings will play four more times against each other this season.
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