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Slow-Starting Kings Fall Short at Dallas


DALLAS — The width of the goal post to Andy Moog's right was all that kept the Kings from getting a point--or possibly two--out of a game in which they dozed for 20 minutes and then tried to substitute finesse for tenacity.

Their 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars Tuesday, before a sellout crowd of 16,914 at Reunion Arena, was a tale of missing effort in the first period and near-misses in the third. After clawing back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-2 to move within a goal with 8:27 to play, they watched in frustration as John Druce's long shot from the right wing glanced off Andy Moog's glove and clanged off the post with eight minutes left.

"We were right there," King goaltender Kelly Hrudey said.

Not quite. Unable to beat Moog again, they lost all hope of a comeback when Mike McPhee poked in the rebound of a Neal Broten shot at 18:20, sealing the Kings' second consecutive defeat.

"Other than the first period, we were great, although the first period counts," said Hrudey, who made an arm save on Broten's point-blank try, but was helpless when McPhee got behind defenseman Rob Blake and swatted the puck past him. "The first period, we were horrible. We played with no commitment at all. We came back, but unfortunately, it was too late. Against a good team like that, it's going to be pretty tough."

It was a tough loss for the Kings (18-23-4) to accept. "We beat ourselves tonight," defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "We weren't ready to play. That's why we lost two games (out of three) on this road trip.

"It would have been nice to go into the All-Star break with a win. Now, we've got to sit down and think about what we're doing. We have two big games after the break that are very important (against Calgary and Winnipeg) and we have to play harder than this. It's getting tight. Anaheim is only one point behind us."

Defenseman Mark Tinordi scored the Stars' first goal, using the reach afforded by his 6-foot-4 frame to swipe the puck as it bounced between Charlie Huddy's skates. Grant Ledyard made the score 2-0 on a power play, faking a shot before launching it toward the net and past Hrudey's glove at 16:13. Before the Kings could regroup, Dean Evason, skating up the left side on a two-on-one with Mike Craig, rifled the puck past Hrudey on the glove side.

"We gave a team a 3-0 lead and we worked like hell and came up short," King Coach Barry Melrose said. "You can't do that on the road. Anyplace, you can't do that."

Pat Conacher cut into that lead at 5:40 of the second period when he deflected a shot by Tim Watters from the left point, matching a career high with his ninth goal of the season. Rob Blake made the score 3-2 when his 40-foot shot was deflected by Russ Courtnall and bounced past a surprised Moog at 5:09 of the third period.

During a power play gained after Tomas Sandstrom was given a major penalty and ejected for checking Jim Johnson from behind hard enough to send Johnson to the hospital for precautionary X-rays, Trent Klatt backhanded a rebound past Hrudey to rebuild Dallas' two-goal lead at 7:54 of the third period. Luc Robitaille made it interesting again when he converted a rebound by the left post for his 25th goal of the season, but the Stars (24-18-7) held on.

"They got desperate," Moog said. "When a team gets desperate, they'll do everything a step faster and a little more intense."

Had they been a little more intense earlier, they wouldn't have had to become desperate.

King Notes

Tomas Sandstrom said he never touched Jim Johnson, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher but is expected to fully recover from the minor neck injury he suffered when he hit the end boards. Replays seemed to bear that out, and it appeared Jari Kurri was the culprit. "I was chasing him and Tomas came in, too," Kurri said. "(Johnson) kind of stopped and put his head down. He surprised me when he stopped and I tried to put my hands over his head. It was a scary thing." . . . Dave Taylor, who has sat out six games because of a concussion, was scheduled to fly to New York today in preparation for Saturday's All-Star game.

* LOST CHANCE: The Ducks squandered a 3-0 second-period lead in a 3-3 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs. C4

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