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Kings Tip Their Hats to Gretzky : His 3 Goals Help Beat Sabres, 5-3, End Winless Streak

February 05, 1989|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

Wayne Gretzky was credited with three goals, his first hat trick since being traded to Los Angeles, as the Kings beat the Buffalo Sabres, 5-3, Saturday night at the Forum to snap their eight-game winless streak and send them into the All-Star break on a happy note.

"Two of the goals I didn't score," Gretzky said with a sheepish grin.

But they are goals, just the same.

The final one, in the last second of the game, was awarded to Gretzky when Christian Ruuttu shoved the Sabre goal in the general direction of Gretzky.

In Thursday night's game against the New Jersey Devils, when the net was knocked off its mooring during overtime, the Kings were awarded a penalty shot. But Saturday, the Sabres had already pulled their goalie, and--as Gretzky pointed out to the official, who was yelling "penalty shot"--he wouldn't have anyone to shoot at.

The other goal that Gretzky didn't actually score was the one that put the Kings ahead, 3-2, at 10 minutes 34 seconds of the third period. It looked as if it might have been scored by Bernie Nicholls, who was in position at the left corner of the net as shots and rebounds were bouncing around in traffic. But Nicholls told Gretzky that a Sabre defenseman actually tipped in Gretzky's shot, so that goal also had to be credited to Gretzky.

Gretzky's real goal, though, was a beauty. With just 1:48 to play and the score tied, 3-3, Gretzky stole a pass from defenseman Phil Housley, spun around and put the puck past Sabre goalie Darcy Wakaluk, lifting it into the back of the net.

Gretzky said: "Bernie just forechecked the defenseman, and I was coming back through the middle. I don't think he knew I was there. He went to throw it up the middle, and I was there. I just put it over the top of the goaltender's shoulder."

So it was a very strange hat trick that delighted the sellout crowd of 16,005. But, as Gretzky said: "At the end of the season, they don't ask how, they ask how many."

The hat trick was the 44th of Gretzky's career, extending his National Hockey League record.

Gretzky also assisted on Luc Robitaille's goal 7 minutes into the third period to tie the game at 2-2.

The Kings got off to a very slow start. They did not score their first goal until 13:10 of the second period, when Steve Kasper, who was acquired two weeks ago from the Boston Bruins, scored his first goal as a King.

Kasper skated behind the net and put the puck in from the left corner just 19 seconds into a power play.

But by that time, the Sabres already had two goals. Ruuttu had surprised the Kings just 20 seconds into the game, taking a pass from behind the net and beating Glenn Healy with what the King goalie called "a good goal."

And defenseman Shawn Anderson took advantage of a five-on-three opportunity to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead at 10:56 of the second period.

The Kings were down by two men because Mike Krushelnyski unwisely caused an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty to be added to his 2 minutes for hooking at 7:55.

When Dean Kennedy was whistled for roughing at 9:24, the Kings were short two players. But if it were not for the added comments, Krushelnyski would have been long since out of the box when Anderson scored.

Kings defenseman Tom Laidlaw had made the same mistake Tuesday night, getting 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct on top of 2 minutes for holding.

But all negatives were put aside as the Kings finally broke out of their slump. The victory Saturday night was the first since Jan. 14.

Coach Robbie Ftorek said: "Now the guys who are going to the All-Star game can go in on a positive note and not have to face all the questions about what's wrong."

With the victory, which lifted the Kings back into second place in the Smythe Division with a record of 28-21-5, the focus shifted back to what went right.

Healy said the defense did a better job in front of the net.

"We need to be vicious in front of the net," Healy said. "Tonight we had the desire."

Asked if he felt relieved that the slump had ended, Healy said: "Is the monkey off our back now, or what? . . . The whole game is mental. Physically, we're the same guys that we were before. But you lose a few games, the fans give you a couple of boos, the media starts talking about what's wrong, and your confidence slips.

"This was a big break for us."

Healy pointed out that Gretzky had scored a similar goal to beat the Sabres, 5-4, at the Forum earlier this season.

"I think that spot in the back of his net has his name on it," he said.

Buffalo Coach Ted Sator had the same thought.

"Well, Gretzky beat us the time before here on a similar play, and he did the same thing tonight," Sator said. "That's why he's the greatest player in the world."

King Notes

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