Desperation was replaced by relief, one emotion substituted for another.
It wasn’t the way the Kings designed it, but they had to survive giving up a late goal in regulation and a brief review of the goal scored by defenseman Alec Martinez to secure their first victory of the season.
The Martinez goal, at 1:20, stood and the Kings beat the Dallas Stars, 4-3, in overtime on Thursday night at American Airlines Center, avoiding what would have been a dubious mark. The Kings had never lost their first four games of the season. They flirted with that possibility by losing their first three games.
“Obviously not the start we wanted,” Martinez said. “This was a hard-fought game. It was really emotional. There was a little bit of everything in terms of situations … The emotion was a part that maybe was missing the first couple [games]. It was there tonight.”
Martinez gave credit to the two Kings on the ice with him during overtime: Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Pearson had two points (a goal and an assist) and the other Kings’ goals were scored by Jeff Carter and Nic Dowd, who recorded his first NHL goal.
“It was just a breakout,” Martinez said of his game-winner. “Those other two guys worked it up the ice. Ty made a really good play to me in the slot and I believe [Pearson] was in front with a good screen. I was just a beneficiary of all that. They were making the plays. … All I had to do was really hit the net.”
The review of the winning goal was to determine if Pearson interfered with Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen. But the verdict from the NHL’s situation room was that there was no goalie interference before the puck crossed the goal line.
Dallas Coach Lindy Ruff, however, saw it differently.
“It was a terrible call,” he said in his news conference after the game. “He was elbowed in the head before the puck went in the net. I respectfully and disrespectfully disagree with that. ... Terrible. Somebody is going to have to explain why that goal counts.”
There was his post-game emotion and there was plenty of fire on the ice, an unusually spirited game for early in the season. Stars forward Patrick Sharp left the game and did not return because of concussion-like symptoms after a hard hit from Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb.
Dallas seemed determined to seek vengeance and forward Antoine Roussel led the charge, and accounted for 18 penalty minutes on his own. The Stars also lost another forward, Patrick Eaves (lower-body injury), during the game.
Despite all that, the Stars managed to send the game to overtime with Jason Spezza’s goal from the left circle after Lehtonen was pulled for an extra attacker. Spezza beat Kings goalie Peter Budaj up high on the stick side with 2:07 remaining.
Budaj, who played the third period in relief of Jeff Zatkoff on Tuesday at Minnesota, made his first start of the season for the Kings.
“Just very happy for our team,” he said. “We’re finally in the win column. We get this first one out of the way and we can look ahead and try to maybe build a few in a row and get some momentum going. I thought we played a really strong defensive game.”
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa