The way goalie Martin Jones began his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings, the last thing anyone on either bench expected was for him to give up goals on the first two shots the Dallas Stars took.
But Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn scored 1 minute, 20 seconds apart — before the Staples Center seats were even filled — and rookie linemate Valeri Nichushkin got the go-ahead goal on a power play in the second period to propel the Stars to a 5-2 victory over the Kings on Monday night.
”Those guys have played extremely well, and we came in here as weak underdogs. But we got off to a great start,” goaltender Kari Lehtonen said. ”We talked about how well (Jones) has played. But I tried to turn it around the other way, like: `He has to lose one day — and hopefully it would be tonight.’ But he’s a real good goalie and fun to watch.”
Cody Eakin scored an insurance goal with 4:48 remaining against Jones, who stopped 19 shots in his first NHL loss.
Shawn Horcoff was awarded an empty-net goal after he was tripped from behind by Drew Doughty in the Kings zone. Lehtonen made 30 saves to record his league-leading 12th road victory, sending the Kings to their second loss in 11 games and just their third in regulation over the past 23.
”We’re trying to gain points in our conference, and the only way we’re going to do it is by beating good teams,” coach Lindy Ruff said. ”Our young defensemen responded well to the challenge.”
Dallas’ top line of Benn, Seguin and Nichushkin has accounted for 15 goals and 29 points in its past nine games. This was the second time this season that each of them scored in the same game. It also occurred on Dec. 14 in a 6-4 victory at Winnipeg.
”They had a little bit of a rough time in San Jose, and probably were out worst line in the game up there. But they responded by coming back tonight and being the reason we won — which was good to see,” Ruff said.
”Tyler’s got elite speed, Jamie’s got elite puck-handling skills and a shot, and so does Tyler. And the 18-year-old (Nichushkin) is young to be something special,” he added. ”They bring a lot of good things like size and speed, and that’s tough to handle.”
Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll scored first-period goals for Los Angeles. The Kings played without captain Dustin Brown, who missed his first game of the season because of an illness.
Jones, who tied Bob Froese’s 31-year-old NHL record on Saturday by winning for the eighth time in his first eight NHL games, was going after Ray Emery’s mark of nine straight winning decisions from the start of a career.
But the game began inauspiciously for the Kings’ 23-year-old goalie, as Seguin beat him high to the stick side from the low slot for the tying goal after getting a cross-ice pass from Benn.
Less than 2-1/2 minutes later, Benn put Dallas ahead when he carried the puck into the Kings zone and beat Jones to the short side with a backhander over his left shoulder from deep in the right circle. Seguin’s 19th goal and Benn’s 11th ended a streak of 11 straight home games in which the Kings had shut out their opponents in the first period.
”I just thought about stopping the next one, which is all you can do because what’s done is done,” said Jones, who had allowed only eight goals on 234 shots in his other eight games. ”They’ve got some good offensive guys and they did a good job, but I didn’t think we got big saves when we needed it. When you spot a team like that two goals early, it’s pretty tough to win.”
Los Angeles held Dallas to just two more shots on net before Stoll tied it at 16:48 of the period with his fifth goal. Referee Mike Leggo had his arm raised to call a delayed penalty for hooking against Alex Goligoski, when Williams’ pass caromed off the skate of Dallas’ Antoine Roussel and Stoll whipped a 30-foot slap shot between Lehtonen’s pads.
But Nichushkin put Dallas ahead to stay at 5:07 of the second with his seventh goal, beating Jones to the glove side with a one-timer from the right circle after getting a cross-ice feed from Seguin. It came while Stoll was serving an interference penalty. The Stars were just 5 for 50 on the power play in their previous 14 games.
Dallas defenseman Sergei Gonchar was scratched for the first time this season because of concussion-like symptoms, after getting injured in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss at San Jose.
NOTES: Jones, who has been filling in for the injured Jonathan Quick, came within one victory of tying Quick’s franchise record for consecutive wins. . . . Despite the loss, the Kings are 9-2-0 this month. Their previous high for wins in December was eight, accomplished seven times. . . . The Stars get a three-day Christmas break before facing Nashville on Friday in the opener of a five-game homestand, which includes a rematch with the Kings on New Year’s Eve. . . . Seguin has 13 goals and 21 points in his past 18 games.