You’ve got to hand it to Kings Coach Darryl Sutter.
The ultimate contrarian.
The Kings were coming off their eighth win in their last 11 games — including a tightly contested one against the rival Ducks — and Sutter decided to make a few changes.
It would be simplistic to say they worked and directly led to the Kings’ 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at Staples Center. The Kings used the third period as a springboard as left wing Milan Lucic had the game-winner, beating Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen with a one-timer from the high slot, at 6 minutes 17 seconds.
Lucic was aided by a screen from linemate Tyler Toffoli and Stars forward Antoine Roussel lost his stick on the play. Assisting on the goal were center Anze Kopitar and defenseman Jake Muzzin.
“It felt like a five-man cycle,” Lucic said. “Everyone was touching the puck and moving it around. Right now, when we’re out there on the ice, we’re feeling pretty good, pretty confident and using each other in the right way.
“That was another example of it and it ends up turning into the game-winning goal.”
Just before applying pressure that led to the Lucic goal, the Kings had survived a sustained attack from the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Jason Spezza.
Muzzin’s point streak, a career best, has reached eight games. It is the longest for a Kings defenseman since Lubomir Visnovsky put up a nine-game point streak in December of the 2005-06 season.
Lucic, who scored his first goal since Dec. 31, recorded his 12th of the season. He had 18 goals in 81 games with the Boston Bruins last season.
For the changes Sutter put in place, the Kings went back to their tried and true playbook, the same formula giving them a nice cushion in leading the Pacific Division by 12 points.
That would be: lean on the likes of star center Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick. Kopitar had two assists, giving him 20 points since the Christmas break and Doughty had his usual big time on ice, logging nearly 30 minutes, and had five shots on goal and scored the Kings’ second goal, in the first period.
It was 2-2 after two periods and the Kings were able to get Quick a lead in the third period as he held on in a back-and-forth final 20 minutes. Quick faced 29 shots overall and 11 in third period.
Of the Kings’ 29 victories this season, Quick has 26.
The other Kings goals, both in the first period, came from center Vinny Lecavalier, on the power play, and Doughty.
Lecavalier, acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month, has scored three power-play goals in the last three games.
“I think a lot of people wondered what he was going to bring to this team,” Lucic said. “A lot of questions marks with him coming in. But you can tell he’s having fun again.
“The coaches have put him in a position to succeed and obviously that’s something he’s earned.
“He’s been a great player for a long time in this league. For whatever reason, it wasn’t really going for him in Philadelphia. He kind of gets rejuvenated here with the trade and he’s playing with some great players and making the most of his time on the [power play].
The modifications Sutter made were not minor.
He moved center Jeff Carter to right wing with Lecavalier centering Carter and left wing Tanner Pearson.
Kings center Nick Shore, who had been a healthy scratch in three of their last five games, was back in the lineup against Dallas, playing with Andy Andreoff and right wing Marian Gaborik. That would be a fourth-line winger, Gaborik, with a $4.875-million salary cap hit this season.
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa