DALLAS — The Kings were flying through the dressing room door quicker than they had darted about the ice Saturday night.
They were escaping the American Airlines Center with a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars that had left them a bit starry-eyed. On the flight home, there would be time to savor their newfound good fortune in a city that once brought the Kings only woe.
Goals from Alexander Frolov -- scored with his knee -- Derek Armstrong and Tom Kostopoulos were backed by some gritty work in the third period to preserve the victory that moved the Kings three points ahead of the Stars in the Pacific Division.
"That was a fight for first place," King forward Pavol Demitra said as he was bolting through the door to the team bus afterward. "That's all I got to say."
And he was gone.
No one could blame the Kings for rushing as if they were getting up from a poker table to cash in while the getting was good.
When goaltender Mathieu Garon swatted away the last Star shot with three seconds left, the Kings had yet another victory in Dallas this season, with no more visits left in the regular season.
The Kings had won only four of 26 games in Dallas in the 10 seasons since the Stars moved from Minnesota. They have won three this season, and would have had a fourth victory had they been able to protect a 4-0 first-period lead in a 5-4 loss opening night.
Of course, there was a reason that this city has been rough on the Kings.
"They have always had a pretty good team here," Coach Andy Murray said. "That tends to make a city less fun."
Before the Kings could ring in the new year, they had to wring their hands through a third period in which the Stars outshot them, 17-1, and nearly rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
The Kings set themselves up for that scramble by beating a well-worn path to the penalty box, as if their resolution this year was to spend more time playing short-handed.
That caught up to the Kings when the Stars turned a two-man advantage into a one-man show.
Mike Modano flipped in a wrist shot from the right for the Stars' first goal 5 minutes 27 seconds into the third period. A minute later, he buried a shot from the left. The two power-play goals cut the Kings' lead to one, bringing back memories of their opening night collapse.
"You don't want to think about something like that, but I couldn't help it," Garon said.
What Garon could help was preventing it from happening again. He made 12 saves in the final 12 minutes.
"Oh my God, they were all over the place," said Garon, who stopped 38 of 40 shots. "I knew I had to stop everything else. I couldn't let us lose another game like that."
It helped that his teammates gave up only three shots in the last four minutes.
"That was a great victory," Armstrong said. "We battled and fought and we deserved it. Mathieu deserved it."
Frolov gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 3:42 into the game after being flattened on the side of the goal. He was getting to his feet when a Demitra pass hit him in the knee and ricocheted off goaltender Marty Turco's skate and into the net. It was Frolov's first goal in 16 games.
"That's a little scary to go through a streak like that," Frolov said. "It was a fluke goal, but I'll take it."
The Stars had killed 38 consecutive penalties before Armstrong and Kostopoulos scored power-play goals in the second period.