CALGARY — When Rob Blake disappeared from the bench early in the second period, the Kings' chances of winning on Saturday night dropped precipitously.
Another game, another injured player.
So, how about two?
By the end of Calgary's 5-3 victory here at the Olympic Saddledome before 20,214, the Kings were down to 16 skaters.
Blake, the team's top defensive defenseman, left the game about five minutes into the second period because of injured ribs. He will have X-rays today but doesn't think it is serious, saying he aggravated an injury he suffered Dec. 8 against Montreal.
Later, with 7:33 remaining, right wing Sean Whyte was sidelined by a strained right shoulder, depleting the already thin roster.
"Guys here are falling like flies," King Coach Barry Melrose said. "We're going through a lot of injuries."
That is almost an understatement. The Kings (20-10-4) are without Wayne Gretzky, Tomas Sandstrom, Dave Taylor, Lonnie Loach and Warren Rychel. Jari Kurri has a pulled groin, as does Corey Millen. And Tony Granato continues to play despite sore ribs.
Previously, when one King went down, another would step up and come through. Now, the Kings step up and hand each other bags of ice.
The Kings led the Flames, 3-2, until Joel Otto tied it with 6:11 remaining in the second period when his shot went off King defenseman Darryl Sydor's hand in the crease.
"I had the save and I turned to look and the puck was wobbling into the net," King goaltender Robb Stauber said. "I thought, 'How did it go in?' "
The Flames' fourth goal, which ended up being the game-winner, wasn't nearly as puzzling. Calgary, in the minutes leading up to the goal, started forechecking more persistently, taking advantage of the tiring Kings. Faceoff after faceoff took place in the Kings' zone.
Finally, Calgary converted on its first good chance in the third period, putting away a three-on-two opportunity with 3:58 remaining. Center Robert Reichel beat Stauber down low from the edge of the left circle, taking a pass from Gary Roberts, who was in the right-wing circle.
That gave the Flames a 4-3 lead. The Kings later pulled Stauber for an extra attacker, but Ronnie Stern made it 5-3 when he scored an empty-netter with 1:12 left.
"They had one outnumbered attack and they scored," said left wing Luc Robitaille, who scored his 27th and 28th goals and added an assist.
"It's a hard one to take because it could have gone either way. They set a great pick (on Millen) and had the three-on-two. You give it to Reichel and he doesn't miss."
Said Melrose: "We played very hard and that's all I ask of my team. I'd like to be a little fresher the next time we play them."
Melrose is frustrated about the injuries. But he was somewhat defensive about the Kings' recent shortcomings on killing penalties. The Kings allowed Edmonton to score four power-play goals Friday and the Flames were two-for-six with the man advantage. And Calgary came into the game with the league's 19th best power-play--a 16.1 success rate. Edmonton is only 14th.
"I love our penalty-killing," Melrose said. "We killed off 45 of 49 and now you guys are all over it. If you're going to write when it goes bad, write when it goes good."
At any rate, the Flames (20-10-4) were able to take advantage of the Kings' penalty-killing, moving into a tie for first in the Smythe Division. The Kings have been leading the division since Nov. 21.
"We knew it was a first-place game," Robitaille said. "Sure, we talk about it. And I'm happy about one thing: We worked very hard, and with everybody being injured, it's a tough one to lose.
"Hopefully, Rob (Blake) won't be missing and then maybe Tomas will be back."
Melrose was more emphatic. "If the doctor says he can play, Tomas will play on Tuesday," he said.