Matt Greene scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Los Angeles Kings moved within a win of a playoff berth by defeating the Dallas Stars 3-1 Saturday.
Thanks to Greene’s second goal of the season, the Kings need just one win in their final four games to secure a second straight playoff appearance.
Wayne Simmonds had a goal and an assist, Dustin Brown tallied and Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots for Los Angeles, which improved to 9-2-1 in its last 12.
The victory also pushed the Kings into a tie with idle Phoenix for the fourth spot in the Western Conference, as they bid for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
Brad Richards scored his 26th goal of the year and Kari Lehtonen had 29 saves for Dallas, which continued its late-season collapse. The Stars have dropped six straight, and barring a miracle in the final week will miss the postseason for a third straight year.
The Stars sit in 10th in the conference, trailing eighth-place Chicago by five points with five games remaining.
Things were tied in the third until Greene’s one-timer from outside the faceoff circle beat Lehtonen’s stick side 12:50 into the period. Simmonds had sent in a cross from behind the net that sailed cleanly in front of the crease, leading to Green’s uncontested shot that deflected off the skate of Dallas’ Alex Goligoski.
Brown added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
The Kings, who were held without a third-period shot in a 3-1 loss to conference-leading Vancouver on Thursday, were aggressive from the start against Dallas.
Peppering the goal with 12 shots in a scoreless first period, the Kings broke through early in the second on a deflection by Simmonds.
Willie Mitchell fired a shot from the point into heavy traffic in front of the net that was deflected by Simmonds and dribbled behind Lehtonen. Stars defenseman Mark Fistric reached to clear the puck from the crease but knocked it into the net for the 1-0 lead at the 4:15 mark.
The goal was Simmonds’ 14th of the season, with assists coming from Mitchell and Trevor Lewis.
The Stars evened things just over a minute later when they broke out on a 4-on-2 that ended with Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski assisting Richards’ slap shot from the right faceoff circle.
Dallas sat as high as fourth in the West on March 13. A 3-2 loss to the Kings sent the Stars into a spiral which in which they have lost eight of nine to fall out of the top eight spots.
The Stars were blanked 6-0 by San Jose on Thursday and this latest loss dropped them to 0-3-1 on their current five-game road trip that concludes Sunday in Anaheim.
The Kings and Stars engaged in a relatively tame affair for the division rivals, registering just one penalty a side through two periods. Dallas’ Mike Ribeiro and Los Angeles’ Brad Richardson picked up matching roughing penalties with 9 seconds left before the second intermission.
The teams combined for 91 penalty minutes in their last meeting at Staples Center on Nov. 11.
Notes: The Kings moved to 2-1 with leading-scorers Anze Kopitar (ankle) and Justin Williams (shoulder) sidelined. … The Kings are 13-3-2 against Dallas since beginning of 2008-09 season. … Lehtonen made his 19th straight start in net.