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Kings' Second Line Does a First-Rate Job

April 13, 1991|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kings, who had two high-scoring lines during the regular season, had become a one-line team during the playoffs.

The Kings' first line of Wayne Gretzky, left wing Tony Granato and right wing Tomas Sandstrom had been as productive as the Vancouver Canucks' high-scoring line of Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall and Trevor Linden.

Meanwhile, the Kings' second line of Todd Elik, Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor hadn't been very successful, scoring only six points in the first four games of the series, while Gretzky, Granato and Sandstrom had 12 points.

But Friday night the Kings' No. 2 line had its best game of the series, combining for four points, two points less than Gretzky, Granato and Sandstrom .

"We need them to score," King Coach Tom Webster said of his No. 2 line. "We've been getting it all year, but when you run into playoffs the important part is not to get scored against. But they looked real strong tonight."

Robitaille, who had said before the game that he was going to play well, had his best game of the 1991 playoffs.

Robitaille scored two power-play goals and Taylor and Elik also assisted on a goal by Steve Duchesne as the Kings defeated the Canucks, 7-4, before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Forum to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"Robitaille has scored 50 goals in this league and we've got to get that kind of production from him," Webster said.

Robitaille said the King power play was more aggressive.

"Tonight we moved the puck real well," Robitaille said. "We didn't really do that the first few games. We were moving up from our zone. It seemed like tonight we were able to get in real easy. And every time we had a chance to shoot from the point we did. And we made sure we had a guy down low."

Gretzky, Granato and Sandstrom had six points. Gretzky had four assists as he reached another milestone with his 200th playoff assist. Sandstrom scored a power-play goal on a rebound of a shot by Granato, who got an assist on the goal.

But Gretzky tried to downplay the slump of the Kings' second line.

"Nobody has really been that productive," Gretzky said. "We're winning, that's all that matters. One game we might be on and the next game they might be on, but that's what makes a good team."

Some of the leading players in the NHL develop scorer's block in the playoffs.

The symptoms include passing up shots and fanning on easy shots.

But Robitaille, the highest-scoring left wing in the NHL for the last four seasons, doesn't disappear once the playoffs begin.

Robitaille had 10 goals and 20 assists in 31 playoff games before this season. And he's continuing to produce.

Robitaille, who scored goals in the first two games against Vancouver, has five points in five games, scoring four goals and assisting on another.

"Tonight was a big game and the team needed me to score some goals," Robitaille said. "That's what they pay me for and I've got to do it."

Although Robitaille had only three shots in the first period, he scored on two of them.

With the Kings trailing 1-0, Robitaille tied it, 1-1, when he tipped in a shot by defenseman Rob Blake at 8:52 of the first period.

After the Canucks regained the lead on Ronning's goal at 13:59, Robitaille scored his second goal at 16:48 off a pass from Gretzky to tie the score again.

"I got lucky on that goal," Robitaille said. "Wayne went to pass it to another guy and it tipped off his stick and came right back to me. Any time I get a 15-footer around the net like that I make sure I don't miss."

Taylor did a nice imitation of Gretzky operating behind the net as he set up Duchesne's goal, which tied the score, 4-4, at 6:25 of the second period. Setting up behind the Vancouver goal, Taylor patiently waited until Duchesne got open and fed him a perfect pass.

"I guess everybody has an opportunity to do that when you play on a team with Wayne Gretzky," Webster said of Taylor's assist. "It was very pretty."

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