LOS ANGELES (AP)—Perhaps all Martin Straka needed was a change of scenery to get going offensively.
Straka ended a 14-game goal drought in his first home appearance with the Los Angeles Kings, helping beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night as Roman Cechmanek posted his fourth shutout of the season.
“We’ll take all the goal scorers we can get,” defenseman Aaron Miller said. “He fit right in with all the Czechs and Slovaks, and he’s a talented player who can put the puck in the net. And it didn’t take him long to show that.”
Playing in his 700th NHL game and second with the Kings following Sunday’s trade from Pittsburgh, Straka gave them a 2-0 lead with 16:11 remaining. He intercepted goaltender Marty Turco’s attempted clearing pass behind the net, then converted a rebound after Turco scrambled back to the crease to stop Jozef Stumpel’s shot from the right circle.
“Straka’s a guy who I know quite well from international competition when he played for the Czech Republic,” coach Andy Murray said. “He’s got some skill, some speed and competitiveness. But we can’t just draw on skill. We’ve got to have that hard work, as well. And he looks like a guy who looks like he’s a guy who’s prepared to compete.”
Eric Belanger and Jon Sim also scored for the Kings, who won for the third time in four games. Cechmanek, benched during Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at St. Louis after giving up three goals on nine shots, made 17 saves en route to his 24th career shutout.
Turco made 20 saves for the Stars, who were blanked for the fifth time. They were shut out only three times last season—twice by the Kings.
“We know that they’re a good team, so we really prepare ourselves and come ready to play. We certainly have the last two times we played them,” Miller said. “It was a big win against a team in our division.”
Belanger opened the scoring at 8:13 of the second period with his sixth goal after a Dallas turnover in the neutral zone. He got a pass from Alexander Frolov and beat Turco to the glove side with a short shot from the right circle.
The Kings converted another sloppy turnover into their third goal. Defenseman Jon Klemm coughed up the puck behind the net to Sean Avery, and Sim one-timed Avery’s backhanded pass past Turco’s glove from 35 feet out with 3:57 to play.
“The game plan was to play them as tight as we possibly could,” Murray said. “I thought we were strong on the forecheck tonight and tried to cut down on their operating space, because they’ve got so many people who can hurt you if they have room to play.”
The Stars were 0-for-4 on the power play, after going 1-for-7 with the man advantage in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Kings at Dallas.
“Our power play—that’s the worst it’s ever been,” forward Bill Guerin said. “We had some opportunities and we could have won the game right there. You’re not going to score on every power play, but you can’t lose momentum on it.”
Frolov had a short-handed goal disallowed in the first period when referee Dave Jackson, who lost sight of the puck, blew the whistle just before Frolov tapped his own rebound into the net as the puck lay at Turco’s feet.
Los Angeles had another close call at 6:48 of the second, as Straka’s slapshot from the top of the left circle changed direction off the leg of Dallas captain Mike Modano and Turco had to reach behind him at the lastinstant to keep the puck from going in.
Straka began the night with a plus-minus rating of minus-16, the worst in the league. Last season with Pittsburgh, he was a plus-12. … Two of Dallas’ three shutout losses last season were to the Kings. … Turco and Cechmanek finished 1-2 in goals-against average last season—the only two with a GAA under 2.00. … Kings leading scorer Ziggy Palffy returned to the lineup after missing five games because of a bruised jaw, facial cuts and two broken teeth. He was struck by a puck while sitting on the bench during a victory at Colorado on Nov. 22. … Thursday was Kings general manager Dave Taylor’s 48th birthday. … Dallas C Jason Arnott did not make the trip to Los Angeles because of a sore groin, but hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s game at Anaheim. … Dallas has killed off all 19 short-handed situations over the last six games after giving up at least one power-play goal in five straightcontests.