DALLAS — Jonathan Bernier played goal Sunday with a heavy heart, still grieving the recent death of his maternal grandmother, Georgette St-Gelais.
"It's never an easy time to go through," said Bernier, who missed the Kings' trip to the White House last week to go to Canada and join his family in mourning.
"I played that game for her. I think she'll appreciate that."
Bernier faced only 15 shots Sunday, but his emotionally taxing effort was one of many contributions the Kings needed to earn a 3-2 victory at American Airlines Center, their first win over the Stars in three meetings this season.
Faced with a quick turnaround after a disappointing shootout loss Saturday at Minnesota, the Kings (20-12-3) did what good teams do. They put excuses aside and went to work, getting big goals from big players — Jeff Carter and Justin Williams — and a big goal from little-used forward Brad Richardson, his first regular-season goal in exactly a year.
"Giving one away and coming in at 2:30 in the morning and getting ready for a game again, this was a good response," center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings improved to 3-0-1 on their current trip with one game left, Tuesday at Glendale, Ariz. "You've got to give credit to all 20 guys."
Bernier extended his personal winning streak to three and the speedy Richardson, playing only his third game this season, broke a 1-1 tie in the third period while centering the Kings' reconfigured fourth line. The entire team was tenacious on defense and quick to pounce on the Stars' mistakes.
"They kind of took it to us there the whole game," Dallas forward Jamie Benn said.
That unified effort allowed the Kings to conquer Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who had frustrated them with a 40-save shutout March 21 at Staples Center and beaten them, 5-2, on March 7.
"Their goalie's been playing very well against us, but we kept playing the system and we found a way to score three and we held on to it," Bernier said. "We're playing some good hockey. We're finding ways to win, and that's the most important."
Carter's floating backhander, set up by Mike Richards and Dustin Penner, gave the Kings the lead 25 seconds into the game. That stood until Benn, on Dallas' first shot of the second period, took a long lead pass from Alex Goligoski and slipped behind the Kings' defense before beating Bernier with a backhander at 13:16.
Richardson, who last played on Feb. 10 and was surprised when Coach Darryl Sutter told him Sunday morning that he'd be in the lineup, gave the Kings a 2-1 lead at 5:40 of the third period, after Kyle Clifford tipped the puck away from the Stars. Clifford fed Richardson, who roofed it over Lehtonen.
Sutter was looking for energy and speed when he took Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan out of the lineup and created a fourth line of Clifford, Richardson and Tyler Toffoli. Sutter wasn't expecting a goal from Richardson, but who was?
"Him and I have a good relationship and I feel bad not playing him because he's a guy who can play anywhere in your lineup," Sutter said.
Richardson, who won four of five draws, repaid Sutter's trust Sunday.
"It hasn't been a lot of fun. This felt good," said Richardson, who last scored a regular-season goal on March 31, 2012, against Minnesota but scored a timely goal in Game 5 of the Kings' first-round playoff series against Vancouver last April.
"We've been working hard. To be honest it is hard to keep going, but you just do it and you've got to be ready."
Williams made it 3-1 off a feed from Dustin Brown at 6:49. Ray Whitney brought Dallas to within one on a power-play blast at 11:04, but the Kings held on.
"We battled hard," Bernier said. "I'd like to get those goals back, probably. I just misread things a little bit, but that's the game. You make mistakes, but we found a way."
Even if it isn't always the easy way.