With weapons like Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky, it wasn't a surprise that the Kings won Game 3 of the Campbell Conference finals on the power play.
The difference on Friday was that it was the Toronto power play that won it for the Kings, 4-2, as the Maple Leafs gave up two short-handed goals at the Forum before a sellout crowd of 16,005.
That gave the Kings the lead in this best-of-seven series, 2-1, the first time they have been in the lead against Toronto. This is the first time the Kings have played a third-round game in front of their home fans in their 26 seasons, and now they are within two victories of reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Game 4 is at the Forum on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Scoring the short-handed goals were Kurri in the second period and Dave Taylor in the third. The output equaled the Kings' short-handed effort of two goals in the previous 14 playoff games. It was Kurri's 100th playoff goal, which puts him behind one player, Gretzky, who has 103.
Special teams were the key for the Kings in Game 3. After they blew a 2-0 lead, their go-ahead goal came on the power play from rookie Alexei Zhitnik at 18:12 of the second period, a blast from the top of the right circle that beat Toronto goaltender Felix Potvin on the stick side. That made it 3-2 heading into the third period.
"We played in control, and we did not let outside things influence us," King Coach Barry Melrose said. "We were fortunate to get the goal at the end of the second. We just know we have to play better against them on Sunday.
"We're getting to Potvin a little bit. Maybe he'll lose a little bit of composure, but I doubt it."
Taylor, who has been with the Kings for 16 seasons, gave them a bit of comfort and helped deflate the Maple Leafs with his short-handed goal at 1:26 of the third. Left wing Luc Robitaille had gone off for slashing with less than one second remaining in the second and the penalty carried over to the third.
But the Maple Leafs were disorganized on their power play and Taylor caught them off guard on a line change and skated with speed down the right-wing side. Taylor took a couple of strides into the right-wing circle and beat Potvin up high on the stick side. Another veteran forward, Pat Conacher, who almost always serves on the Kings' first penalty-killing unit, assisted on the goal.
Later, for the Forum crowd there was the emotional payoff of watching Maple Leaf center Doug Gilmour leave the game with less than three minutes remaining when he was given a two-minute minor penalty for interference and a 10-minute misconduct and was joined in the dressing room by left wing Wendel Clark, who was also assessed a 10-minute misconduct.
Just seconds earlier, Gilmour had nearly set up Clark to pull within one, but Clark was stymied by King goaltender Kelly Hrudey. Without Clark and Gilmour, the Maple Leafs had almost no chance of doing much offensively in the waning seconds. And Hrudey, playing his best hockey of the playoffs, made 20 saves.
The Maple Leaf offense, not exactly potent in the best of times, was further hampered by two incidents in the first period when they lost left wing Dave Andreychuk and center Peter Zezel.
Andreychuk, who scored 54 goals in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs, clipped King defenseman Charlie Huddy in the face, cutting him near the right eye. He received a five-minute major for high-sticking and an automatic game misconduct at 14:40 of the first.
Although the Kings did not score on the ensuing power play, the loss of Andreychuk hurt the Leafs' top scoring line of Andreychuk, Gilmour and Glenn Anderson.
The first blow came about 1 1/2 minutes earlier when Zhitnik hammered Zezel along the boards. Zezel was slow getting up and did not return as he suffered a neck strain. Even though Zezel is not the same offensive force as Andreychuk, he picked up two goals in the playoffs and played strong two-way hockey against St. Louis in the second round.