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Boston's Offense Bewilders Kings : Pro hockey: Gretzky and company get no respite in a 6-4 loss to the Bruins.


BOSTON — Have the Kings forgotten how to ice the puck?

It might not have been the only reason they lost, 6-4, to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, but their failure to get even a few seconds respite from the Bruins' relentless attack proved costly midway through the third period.

Boston was holding a 5-4 lead and was inspired after killing off defenseman Ray Bourque's tripping penalty. The Bruins started swarming and the Kings panicked, skating around with no clear plan of action.

In a span of 1:30, the Bruins had five shots on goal. The sellout crowd of 14,448 got louder and the small confines of Boston Garden seemed to grow even smaller. Warren Rychel muffed a clearing attempt. Alexei Zhitnik coughed up the puck to Bruin forward Brent Hughes.

Finally, forward Jozef Stumpel put the Kings out of their 90-seconds of misery, firing a shot from the left circle off defenseman Tim Watters' right skate that squirted between goaltender Robb Stauber's legs at 9:35 of the third.

Bruins 6, Kings 4. And that was the end of it. The only suspense left was whether Wayne Gretzky would inch closer to Gordie Howe's all-time goal record of 801. But Gretzky, who had one assist, remained three away from tying the record and had only one shot on goal, that in the first period.

The Bruins are headed in the opposite direction from the Kings, having lost only one of their last 11 games in an 8-1-2 stretch. The Kings, on the other hand, have won only once in their last 11 games and are five points behind San Jose, which defeated the Oilers, 4-2, Thursday night.

Rychel accepted responsibility for the bad clearance that led to Stumpel's goal.

"I had the last chance to clear it," he said. "I was trying to get it out and it spun off (my stick). Then it goes off two legs and goes in. It was compounded by my mistakes and their bounces. I'll take the rap."

Watters talked about the Kings' inability to ice the puck.

"We want to make the perfect play all the time to get it out," he said. "It's not possible. You can't always do that. Everything happens so fast in these small buildings. You've got to use the boards and get the puck out of your zone."

The Kings refuse to use the attention surrounding Gretzky's pursuit of Howe's goal record as an excuse. "A lot of things make me nervous--this isn't one of them," King Coach Barry Melrose said.

Said Rychel: "This should be an exciting thing. Guys should pick up their play. We shouldn't be nervous and this shouldn't be a distraction."

Gretzky, of course, is used to disruptions of every sort. In his career, he has scored 21 times against the Bruins and said that relatively small number of goals, at least for him, has a lot to do with a bigger on-ice distraction----Bourque.

"Probably the biggest reason is I've played a lot against 77," Gretzky said. "He's a pretty good hockey player. I've had a good playoff against them, but I haven't played well against the Bruins in the regular season.

"He's out there almost every shift I'm out there. Hopefully, Sunday I'll rebound."

The Kings (22-34-9) are in Chicago on Sunday and return to Los Angeles for games against the Blackhawks on Wednesday and Buffalo on March 12. Gretzky, however, does not want this to turn into a prolonged vigil.

"I don't want it to be drawn out," he said. "I don't want this thing to drag on and put people out of their schedules following me. I want to score as badly as they want me to. So we can all go home."

King Notes

The Kings and Lakers are taking part in a "Tickets for Guns" program March 5-12 that allows individuals to turn unloaded weapons in to the Inglewood Police Department in exchange for two tickets to selected Kings or Lakers games. The gun must be unloaded, must be locked in the trunk of a vehicle and must be removed only by a police officer.

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