In losing to the Dallas Stars, 2-1, Monday afternoon, the Kings learned, possibly relearned, that they are not good enough to defeat a quality team when things do not go their way.
They let a 1-0 first-period lead slip away by not capitalizing on their scoring opportunities and allowing the Stars to make the most of theirs before 11,854 at the Forum.
Dallas forwards Brent Gilchrist and Mike Modano scored in the second and third periods and the Stars took advantage of several questionable calls to defeat the Kings for the third time in less than a month.
“This was a very, very poorly officiated game,” King Coach Larry Robinson said. “I thought . . . it was horrible.
“No. 1, we lost a guy, again [to injury]. That, nobody saw and a guy ends up getting only a two-minute. Then, a cheap is called against [King defenseman Rob] Blake. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t a penalty but after that they had three guys who could have been [called] for interference at the end. I don’t mind losing, but I don’t like losing when it’s in somebody else’s hands.”
What had the Kings crying foul was an incident late in the first period when King defenseman Mattias Norstrom was attacked by Dallas’ Jamie Langenbrunner. After Norstrom had made a solid check on a Dallas player, Langenbrunner retaliated by knocking Norstrom face down on the ice, then landing two punches to Norstrom’s head.
Norstrom needed 11 stitches to close a cut above his right eye and left the game late in the second period because of a mild concussion. Langenbrunner was given only a two-minute roughing penalty.
“I thought it was a good call,” said Jim Christison, an NHL supervisor of officials who was at the Forum. “The referee on the opposite side of the ice thought Norstrom was knocked down and the guy hit him with his glove [hand]. We weren’t positive how [Norstrom] received the cut, but I thought he got it when he hit the ice and his helmet caused it.”
The Kings, who already were playing without injured regulars Dimitri Khristich, Yanic Perreault, Doug Zmolek and Jan Vopat, were still able to take a 1-0 lead without Norstrom, when fellow defenseman Sean O’Donnell scored a power-play goal with 16 seconds left in the first period.
With Dallas’ Dave Reid in the penalty-box for holding, O’Donnell scored his fourth goal in the last six games after an assist from Blake. The goal was the Kings’ third on the power play in three games.
“It’s a great example of confidence,” Blake said of O’Donnell’s recent surge. “It’s not luck anymore. He’s making great plays and he has the skills to make them.”
For most of the second period, behind the stellar play of goalie Stephane Fiset, the Kings kept Dallas scoreless. But the Stars seemed to gain momentum after minor scuffles that brought 10-minute misconduct penalties for the Kings’ Ian Laperriere and Matt Johnson, and Dallas’ Mike Lalor and Bill Huard.
Gilchrist tied the score at 15:05 of the second period when he knocked in an assist from Sergei Zubov from the slot. It was Gilchrist’s ninth goal.
Fiset, who stopped 35 shots, kept the score tied in the third period with saves on close shots, but with 2:03 remaining, Modano scored his team-high 24th goal to put Dallas ahead.