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Norstrom’s happy return

Times Staff Writer

Mattias Norstrom, the Kings’ captain for the last five-plus seasons, walked into Staples Center on Wednesday, as he has so many times before. He headed to the dressing rooms, a journey he could make blindfolded.

The routine was, well, routine. Then he pulled on a Dallas Stars’ jersey and went out and had another lunch-pail effort for the other team.

Norstrom logged his minutes, had one embarrassing moment, but assisted on Krys Barch’s game-winning goal in the Stars’ 4-2 victory in front of an announced 17,838.

“It was like playing against your best friend,” Norstrom said. “You always want to beat your best friend, get the bragging rights.”

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For the Stars, this was another step toward the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Kings, this was another loss in a season full of them. For Norstrom, it was his first game in Los Angeles since the Feb. 27 trade-deadline deal sent him to a Pacific Division rival.

“Once I got on the ice, it was not a problem,” said Norstrom, who played 10-plus seasons with the Kings. “All the anticipation was before the game.”

Still, Norstrom admitted, “It was a new experience, that’s for sure.”

Even if the day included so much of the same-old, same-old. Norstrom commuted from his Manhattan Beach home with the Kings’ Rob Blake, getting a cup of coffee along the way, as had been their routine when they were teammates.

“Coffee with Matty, it’s like that book, ‘Tuesdays With Morrie,’ ” Blake said.

What was different was going their separate ways once they got to the arena.

“I thought this was going to feel more strange than it did,” Norstrom said. “I was coming to Staples Center and going into the other room to play the Kings. When I got here, it just wasn’t as strange as I expected.”

The Kings honored Norstrom with a video tribute during a break in play, with the Kings’ Michael Cammalleri pulling out of the face-off circle so the crowd could give Norstrom a standing ovation.

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“I really appreciated my time with the Kings,” he said. “I have no complaints. It was nice of them to do that, but I didn’t get to see much of it. Maybe I’ll ask them for a tape.”

Norstrom’s next moment was less pleasant. Dustin Brown skated around him and tucked the puck into the net for a 2-1 lead 11 seconds into the third period. However, the lead quickly evaporated when the Stars’ Antti Miettinen and Barch scored in the next four minutes.

That left Norstrom at plus-29 points in the standings since the trade, as the Stars are jockeying for playoff position.

“The first year I was in the league with the Rangers, we made the playoffs and I thought, we’ll have this chance to win the Cup every season,” Norstrom said. “Thirteen years later, I know what a struggle it is just to get a chance to try for the Cup.”

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Especially with the Kings, who will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Reasons why were on display at times Wednesday, with too many penalties and a lack of focus.

The Kings took a 1-0 lead on Jamie Lundmark’s first-period goal, then paraded as if it were choreographed, giving the Stars six power plays in the second. They capitalized on one, when Mike Ribeiro scored the tying goal midway through the period.

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The Kings’ Anze Kopitar returned to the lineup after sitting out 10 games because of a back injury.

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chris.foster@latimes.com


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