DALLAS (AP) – After trading away two of their top offensive catalysts, the Dallas Stars have managed to remain in the Western Conference playoff race by using a more balanced attack.
Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler both scored twice during Dallas’ four-goal third period, and the Stars broke open a tie game and routed the Los Angeles Kings 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Whitney snapped a 1-1 tie just 52 seconds into the third, and the Stars poured on the offense en route to their third straight win.
Seven players have scored the 13 goals the Stars have tallied during those victories.
One week after dealing veterans Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy before the NHL trade deadline, the Stars moved into ninth place in the West — two points behind Detroit in the last postseason slot.
Fiddler had just one goal in his previous 36 games, but he has two goals and five assists in his past four.
“I’m not here to score goals, but it’s always nice to contribute,” he said. “We’ve lost some guys that produce offense, and some of us have to step up and contribute. It seems things are clicking. We’ve found a little bit of chemistry and we have to keep it going if we want to make the playoffs.”
Alex Goligoski also scored and Trevor Daley added two assists for the Stars, who entered the night with the worst home record in the West. They improved to 9-9-2 at home.
“I thought that we came out in the third, and getting that goal early certainly helped,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said, whose club has won three of four against the defending Stanley Cup champions this season. “(We) got a little energy from it and kept going. When you’re spreading the scoring around, it gives everybody else a little bit of confidence.
“That’s all guys need, and this is the right time of year to have it.”
Richard Bachman, who had played a total of 35 minutes since his previous start on Feb. 26, stopped all 22 shots he faced after replacing Kari Lehtonen 14:18 in.
“It was fun playing again, that’s for sure,” said Bachman, who made 16 saves in the second period. “Confidence-wise, it’s huge for me. And more importantly, I hope I gave them some confidence if they need to have me in there, that I can help get the job done.”
Lehtonen started his 19th straight game but left because of a lower body injury after making seven saves and allowing one goal.
“It’s mild and we’ll reassess it (Wednesday).” Gulutzan said.
Drew Doughty scored for the Kings, who came off a 4-3 shootout loss at Anaheim on Sunday and dropped to 5-2-2 in their last nine games. Jonathan Quick made 26 saves.
“The third was just a terrible period for us,” said Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who was on the ice for all four Stars goals in the third period. “Our line, we can’t get scored on four times in one period. It definitely wasn’t good.
“We can’t just forget about this period. We’ve got to address it. A period like this, it’s unacceptable.”
Whitney scored 52 seconds into the final period, taking a pass from rookie Alex Chiasson and sending a wrist shot from the high slot over Quick’s glove to give Dallas its first lead.
Robyn Regehr’s giveaway in his zone set up Dallas’ Stephane Robidas for a slap shot from the right point. Fiddler deflected the puck out of midair while in front for his first of the night at 7:58.
“It was a great shot by Robi,” Fiddler said. “I just do what I do, stand in front of the net and hope it goes in off me.”
Another turnover by Regehr led to Whitney’s ninth of the season at 11:06, a one-timer into an open net from in front after he took a pass from Loui Eriksson.
“We didn’t come out and play in the third period the way we wanted to,” Regehr said. “My two plays there were directly responsible for two goals against, and we just can’t have that, not in a very tight hockey game like that.”
Fiddler closed the scoring with his fourth of the year at 13:56 when he fired the puck from the left corner into the crease, squeezing its way past Quick to make it 5-1.
“We turned the puck over pretty regularly,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Every time we lose bothers me, but with the schedule, we don’t have time to get our top players to play better. Unfortunately, some of them have not played very well against Dallas this year.”
Dallas got into trouble early when Eriksson was whistled for a four-minute, high-sticking penalty just 34 seconds in. It took the Kings just 39 seconds to capitalize, as Kopitar fed a cross-ice pass to Doughty in the left circle for a wrist shot that beat Lehtonen over the glove at 1:13.
With the Kings still on the power play, Dallas nearly got one while short-handed at 2:25 when Fiddler raced into the Los Angeles zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Eric Nystrom. With Doughty taking away the pass option, Fiddler fired a wrist shot from the slot that Quick stopped with his pad.
The Stars tied it at 11:16, just six seconds after Jordan Nolan’s cross-checking penalty expired, when Goligoski retrieved a loose puck in the left circle and blasted a slap shot that beat a screened Quick just inside the right post.
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