Anze Kopitar controls the puck against Stephane Robidas on November 23rd, 2011, at American Airlines Center in a game that the Stars would end up winning 3-2 in overtime: Thanks to LAKings.com

Anze Kopitar controls the puck against Stephane Robidas on November 23rd, 2011, at American Airlines Center in a game that the Stars would end up winning 3-2 in overtime: Thanks to LAKings.com

Well, I know what the Dallas Stars are going to be thankful for this year: The win that was just gift-wrapped for them by the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, the Kings were in control of this game, with a 2-0 lead after two periods, but once again, they put together a poor third period with a lead, and this time, it cost them a point, and gave two points to a division rival.

The Kings had several chances to put this game away. Kyle Clifford his a post with a wide open net, and the Kings failed on all three power plays that they got, and in a third period where the Kings were outshot 13-6, they still should have won despite all of that. However, late in the game, with the Kings protecting a one-goal lead, Terry Murray made a headscratching boneheaded decision to put Ethan Moreau into the game, and I have a feeling it wasn’t a reward for the assist he had earlier in the game. Yes, Ethan Moreau. He of three assists, a minus-3 rating, and 20 penalty minutes in all 23 games for the Kings this year, most of those penalty minutes coming from just plain stupid penalties. Moreau has been hurting the Kings far more than he’s been helping this season, yet not only has he played every game and even received power play time, but Murray decided that he was one of the guys that he wanted out there to hold the lead in that situation. Sure enough, Moreau did what he does best, taking an idiotic slashing penalty on Sheldon Souray that gave the Stars a late power play and a chance tie it, and they capitalized right as the penalty expired and with about 20 seconds remaining in the game. Murray acknowledged after the game that the penalty Moreau took was awful, and now he’ll need to hold him accountable and, rather than dress him so he can find his way to the penalty box, have him in the press box on Saturday when the Kings host the Chicago Blackhawks. Hopefully for many more games, too. At the same time, Murray deserves his share of the blame as well. I can not even begin to imagine what was going through his mind when he decided to put Ethan Moreau out in that situation.

And once again, the Kings’ third period problems plagued them again. Yes, the Kings haven’t lost in regulation in something like 60+ games when leading after two periods. Usually, it’s bend-but-don’t-break for this team. This time, they broke. And despite that streak, many of those games the Kings have not only looked terrible in the third period, but allowed the other team to tie it up and either end up winning or losing the game in overtime or a shootout. Of course, that streak does not count the playoffs, where the Kings held leads after the second period in both Games Four and Six of their series with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010. If they could have closed out those games, then they’d have gone to the second round, and who knows what could have happened. Or just closed out even one of them, and they would have had a chance in Game Seven. Then, of course, the infamous Game Three meltdown against the Sharks in last year’s playoffs. Except that time, the collapse came in the second period, when a 4-0 lead became a 5-5 tie before the Sharks won it in overtime in one of the most embarrassing moments in Kings history. Instead of grabbing serious momentum and a 2-1 series lead, the Kings were left in shock as the Sharks grabbed a 2-1 lead before taking the series in six games. Again, who knows what could have been had the Kings held onto that lead.

On the bright side, this was not a playoff game, but they did let go of a point that they’re probably going to wish they had later in the season. If they keep up these third period performances, then they’re going to let go of a lot of points that they’re going to wish they had later in the season. This was a tough loss to swallow for the Kings, but they’ll need to try and forget about how it happened and just be satisfied with getting three out of four points on this road trip, because they need to prepare to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Before we get set for that, let’s recap Wednesday’s game in Dallas…

1st period: The Stars outshot the Kings 9-8 in a scoreless opening frame that saw the Stars go 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Kings got one late that would carry over for another four seconds in the second period. The best chance came for the Stars when Mike Ribeiro rifled a one-time slap shot that beat Jonathan Quick, but not the post.

2nd period: The Kings opened the scoring at the 4:53 mark of the second period. Dustin Brown came down the right side, then found Mike Richards trailing, who took the feed and put a shot on Lehtonen that trickled through for Richards’ 10th goal of the year, eighth goal in his last eight games, and he now has a five-game goal streak, a span in which he has six goals. The last King to have a five-game goal streak was Dustin Brown from January 17th, 2009 to January 31st, 2009. Brown also had six goals over that span. Then, 36 seconds later, at the 5:29 mark, instead of giving up a goal shortly after scoring one, the Kings added another one, thanks to a very unlikely source of secondary scoring. The puck took a fortunate bounce to Kevin Westgarth, yes, Kevin Westgarth, at the left circle who wasted no time in firing a shot over Lehtonen’s glove, for his first goal of his NHL career, in his 73rd game. Ethan Moreau picked up the only assist on the play. The Stars outshot the Kings 14-8 in the period, despite being outscored 2-0. The Kings went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Stars didn’t have one.

3rd period: At the 1:33 mark, the Kings thought they may have taken a 3-0 lead. Mike Richards fed it out in front to Andrei Loktionov whose shot went off the post and hit Lehtonen, but video review confirmed that it stayed out of the net. Dallas wasted little time getting back into the game, as Jamie Benn cut the Kings’ lead in half with his sixth goal of the season at the 2:07 mark. Eric Nystrom did good work to get the puck in deep, then fed it to Benn whose shot was stopped by Quick, but gave up a rebound right back to Benn. Quick thought Benn was going to shoot it again right away and committed to that, but Benn stepped to his left and Quick was left helplessly flopping around his crease as Benn fired it into an empty net. Radek Dvorak also got an assist. Then, at the 17:39 mark, there was the Moreau penalty, when he carelessly slashed the stick out of Sheldon Souray’s hands. With just over 20 seconds remaining, the faceoff was in the Kings neutral zone, and Mike Richards tried to win the puck forward, but the Stars recovered it. They got it in the Kings zone, while Willie Mitchell took a desperation whack at the puck to try and send it out, but missed, and the Stars had a 3-on-1. Jamie Benn flipped a nice pass over to Loui Eriksson on his left who beat Quick with his 10th goal of the season to tie it at the 19:39 mark, right as the Moreau penalty had expired. Michael Ryder also got an assist. Each team went 0-for-1 on the power play in the period, and 0-for-3 in regulation. Dallas outshot Los Angeles 13-6 in the frame, and 36-22 in regulation.

Overtime: Jack Johnson stepped up to make a big hit on Mike Ribeiro at the Dallas blue line, but the puck was picked up by Stephane Robidas and Johnson was out of the play as the Stars had a 3-on-1 on Slava Voynov with Andrei Loktionov and Johnson trying to get back into the play to help out, but before they could, Robidas fed it to his left to Steve Ott whose shot Quick was only able to get a piece of, as it trickled over the line to end the game at the 2:56 mark of overtime, a goal that looked eerily similar to Eriksson’s tying goal. Quick was furious at how the game ended and smashed his stick on the boards while leaving the ice. It was Ott’s sixth goal of the season. Neither team had a power play in overtime, meaning they both finished 0-for-3 on the night. The shots were even at 2-2 in overtime, while Dallas outshot LA 38-24 on the night.

So after a very disappointing loss, the Kings will try to rebound on Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT.

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