There was no question Luc Robitaille was getting frustrated. It showed when he pounded the ice with his gloves in the first period, angered when he was pulled down and there was no call on the play.
This series was rapidly turning into a repeat of the Kings' first round against the Flames, in which Robitaille didn't score until Game 5. Against the Vancouver Canucks, he went without a point or a shot in the opener and picked up an assist in Game 2. After finally scoring against the Flames, Robitaille and Tomas Sandstrom had joked about getting the monkey off their backs.
Robitaille and Sandstrom never let the monkey get off the ice on Friday night. They both scored in a five-goal third period by the Kings, which gave them a 7-4 victory over the Canucks at the Forum before a sellout crowd of 16,005 in Game 3 of the Smythe Division final.
The victory gives the Kings their first lead in the Smythe final, going up 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. Game 4 is at the Forum on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Scoring in the third period were Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky (twice) and Sandstrom. Gretzky's first goal, which came at 9:03, was his 100th career goal in the playoffs and it was unassisted.
But Robitaille's goal was the turning point of the game as it broke a 2-2 tie and put the Kings in the lead for good at 4:41. King Coach Barry Melrose said that Robitaille probably scored 40 of his 63 goals this season in about a 10-foot area of the crease and that's where Robitaille was again when he got the go-ahead goal.
King defenseman Alexei Zhitnik fired a slap shot from the left point and Robitaille, at the right side of the net, redirected the pass by simply putting his stick down on the ice while being checked by Doug Lidster. Sandstrom had started the play by working the puck out of the left corner.
Kurri made it 4-2 only 2:05 later on an outstanding effort as he was being checked by Gerald Diduck. With Diduck hooking him in the slot, Kurri beat Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean with on the glove side with a backhander.
The Kings took a three-goal lead on a vintage Gretzky play. Gretzky, coming down the right wing, tried to hit Sandstrom with a pass. The puck never got through, however, and it bounced off Diduck and sat near the right post. Trailing the play, Gretzky swooped in and tucked the puck in.
Gretzky later added another unassisted goal, an empty-netter, with one second remaining. Earlier, Sandstrom's goal was at 12:13, making it 6-3, after Canuck defenseman Dave Babych had pulled Vancouver within two goals. Sandstrom, showing poise, beat McLean with a backhander as he was off balance.
The third-period burst of offense by the Kings followed a quiet first period and an erratic showing in the second.
Left wing Warren Rychel helped redeem the Kings' shaky effort in the second half of the second period, scoring with 51 seconds remaining. It was his fifth goal of the playoffs, which is especially notable considering he scored six goals in 70 games during the regular season. If anything, Rychel made his impact with his fists rather than his finesse, recording 314 penalty minutes.
He tied the game at 2-2 in typical Rychel fashion as he crashed the net, which some of the other Kings seem unwilling to do. Gretzky started the scoring play with a shot from the top of the right circle. His shot glanced off defenseman Robert Dirk's leg as well as Sandstrom. Rychel made the most of the confusion, beating McLean from the left post.
Earlier, the Kings had been scrambling in their zone, unwilling to throw the most modest of body checks. Vancouver took advantage of the defensive breakdowns and took their first lead of the game with consecutive goals in a span of 1:32.
One goal was a fluke and the other was an outstanding individual play.
With the Kings leading, 1-0, on Darryl Sydor's goal, Geoff Courtnall tied it with his third goal of the playoffs, at 15:54. Right wing Trevor Linden helped make the play, beating King defenseman Rob Blake to the puck at the end boards to goaltender Kelly Hrudey's right side. Linden fed the puck to Courtnall, who was alone in the slot between the circles. Courtnall skated in a couple of strides, shifted the puck and beat Hrudey with a backhander.
It's a good bet Hrudey didn't see the second goal at all as he was partially screened. Greg Adams stole the puck from Kurri in the Kings' zone and fed it to Anatoli Semenov at the right-wing boards. Semenov, from 40 feet out, flipped a wrist shot past a stunned Hrudey.
The Kings scored their five goals in the third period on eight shots. . . . General Manager Nick Beverley, in a rare show of levity, walked into a conference room in the Kings' offices, holding a rolled-up piece of paper at the end of nose, pretending to be Pinocchio. Beverley and team physician Ron Kvitne met with a few Los Angeles writers to discuss Wayne Gretzky's injury. . . . Canuck right wing Jim Sandlak played his first game of the series after missing the first two in Vancouver because of back spasms.
* DOCTOR'S ORDERS
Kings' physician says he didn't tell a lie about Gretzky's charley horse/cracked rib, but he didn't want to tell the whole truth. C11
* BLUES WIN
Garth Butcher, who scored only five goals during the regular season, got the game-winner as St. Louis took the lead in Norris Division finals. C11