The Pacific Division-leading Stars overcame a four-goal deficit to beat the Kings on opening night at home, then lost the next five times they faced them. But that streak ended Tuesday night with a dominating 4-1 victory.
Jason Arnott scored twice in the first period and assisted on Stu Barnes’ goal. Mike Modano also scored for the Stars, who have a 14-point advantage on the second-place Kings with 16 games remaining and appear headed for their seventh division title in nine seasons.
“I’ve thought about that before. If we had just been halfway decent against L.A., we probably would have pushed it a little farther,” coach Dave Tippett said. “But this is good incentive for us right now. One of the ways to make the playoffs is to win your division, and that was something we set out to do right from the start. We’ve got to keep pushing in that direction.”
Marty Turco made 24 saves en route to his league-leading 35th victory. His shutout bid was spoiled with 9:04 remaining, as Modano lost the puck just inside the Los Angeles blue line during Dallas’ power play and Sean Avery converted his own rebound at the other end for the Kings’ 14th short-handed goal.
Modano reached the 25-goal mark for the 13th time in his career at 16:26 of the period while NHL penalty-minutes leader Sean Avery was off for hooking Modano. It was the 134th career power-play goal for the Dallas captain, tying Brian Bellows’ franchise record. Now he owns at least a share of every major offensive record in team history.
“Brian was strictly a shooter who had great hands, was tough to move and made a living in front of that net,” recalled Modano, who had Bellows as a teammate during his first three NHL seasons. “I guess over time, I’ve been fortunate to have been put in a position to get those kind of numbers. It’s been fun chasing those numbers. Hopefully, I can add to them so that no one else can get them.”
The Kings lost their third in a row after winning six of their previous seven.
Forward Pavol Demitra was scratched because of a concussion. He was injured in the third period of Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to Phoenix when he was blindsided by Keith Ballard. That was Demitra’s first game back in the lineup after missing the previous six because of an broken nose suffered during the Olympics.
Kings goalie Matthieu Garon, who gave up three goals on the first five shots he faced in Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss against Phoenix, fell behind 2-0 on Dallas’ first five shots.
“The goals came easy to them, and that is frustrating,” Kings coach Andy Murray said. “You like to make it more difficult on your opponents. We need to simplify our game with the lineup we have right now and be grittier and a little tougher to play against.”
Barnes, who replaced the injured Bill Guerin on Arnott’s line with Brenden Morrow, ended a personal eight-game points drought. He assisted on both of Arnott’s goals in addition to scoring his 14th of the season. But he was stopped on a penalty shot by Garon, depriving him of his second career four-point game.
“Playing on a line with them, I think the big thing is just making sure you stay out of their way and maybe try to create some turnovers for them and let them do their thing,” Barnes said of Arnott and Morrow.
“They’re not only big guys who not only can set up in front of the net, but they can work hard in the corners and they’ve got the hands and the skill to go along with it. So if they do get the opportunity on a puck in front, they can bury it in the net.”
Arnott scored from the edge of the crease both times. He redirected Philippe Boucher’s 45-foot wrist shot from the right boards over Garon’s left shoulder at 2:01 of the first period, then converted a rebound of Barnes’ 40-foot wrist shot from the slot at 5:45 for his 27th goal and seventh in nine games.
Barnes made it 3-0 at 5:43 of the second, 44 seconds after the Stars killed off the Kings’ second power play of the period. He cruised down the slot unchecked and converted a rebound of Arnott’s slap shot from the top of the right circle.
Brent Sopel made his Kings debut, eight days after he was acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders. The seven-year veteran defenseman, who missed the previous four games with a bruised knee, pulled Barnes down from behind on a breakaway at 12:04 of the second period to give Barnes his penalty shot.
The Kings have scored three goals or less in eight consecutive games since beating Dallas 6-5 on Feb. 12 at Staples Center. … Modano’s 483rd career goal tied the Kings’ Jeremy Roenick for second-place all-time among American-born players. Joe Mullen, who retired after the 1996-97 season, leads all American-born players with 502. … Los Angeles LW Jeff Cowan was scratched because of back spasms. … The Kings played their 3,000th regular season game.