LOS ANGELES — In a game featuring two possible Western Conference finalists and plenty of stars on both sides, two unheralded players won the day for the Central Division leaders.
Jordie Benn and Patrick Eaves scored third-period goals as the Dallas Stars rallied to beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Saturday at Staples Center.
Dallas (48-22-9) extended its Central Division lead over the St. Louis Blues to four points and avoided a sweep of the three-game season series with Los Angeles.
Lindy Ruff posted his 700th career NHL victory, becoming only the fifth coach to do so. Ruff joked about the achievement after the game, remarking that the accomplishment was more about longevity than anything.
“700 wins means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff said. “I’m looking forward to the next 700.”
While Benn established a career high in points with his first-period goal on the power play, the tying and winning goals in this pivotal game were created by the Stars’ bottom six forwards.
“We all went to the net and got a bounce,” Eaves said. “We had to put a lot of
shots on Jonathan Quick to beat him. It’s a big game for us as it keeps us ahead of St. Louis for the division lead.”
Los Angeles (46-27-5) continues to lead the Pacific Division despite the loss, holding a one-point lead over Anaheim, which has one game in hand.
The loss was only the fifth time in 35 games the Kings lost when leading after two periods (30-5). Quick made 36 saves.
While the Kings still lead the Pacific, they have not played well down the stretch of the season. The loss was their fifth in seven games.
The Kings’ inability to get production from multiple lines has been a major reason for their sluggishness.
“Jeff Carter’s line was really good again tonight,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Again, I think that lineup was not good enough against that type of team.”
Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi expressed the team’s concern about not finishing the season strongly. Though they are built for the playoffs, they know their level of play has to raise significantly to bring a third title to Los Angeles.
“I don’t think we care about who we play,” Scuderi said. “I think we’re worried about how we play.”
Benn gave the Stars their only lead of the game with his second goal of the season at 15:02 of the third period. His slap shot from the right point beat Quick, who was unable to find the puck through a screen in front of the net.
Dallas tied the score 2-2 on Eaves’ unassisted goal at 5:57 of the third period.
Eaves recovered a puck off a scramble in front of the Los Angeles net after a giveaway by Luke Schenn and buried a backhand for his 13th goal of the season.