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Crowd Voices Low Opinion of Kings : Hockey: Boos reign down as 4-0 loss to Blackhawks leaves Stanley Cup finalists seven points behind in playoff race.


The soundtrack to the Kings' alleged playoff push was punctuated by boos all around. At least there was some life and emotion from the sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Forum.

Certainly, none of those attributes were evident from the Kings in a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks were the ones who looked as if they needed to make up ground in the race for the final playoff spot.

So what if Chicago had played the previous night?

The Blackhawks chased down every loose puck, almost every rebound. They even managed to work the puck around on the power play. And they were able to carry the puck into the zone without going offside some of the time.

These basic concepts seemed to elude the Kings.

They have but one victory in their last 13 games, going 1-8-4, and are 0-5-2 in their last seven at the Forum.

"It was awful," King Coach Barry Melrose said. "Maybe this game is good because we were so terrible and so awful, the guys have to do some soul-searching. I can't pick one player who played well. We haven't got a team that wants to make the playoffs. They're hoping to make it.

"We're a team of fat cats that doesn't want to pay the price. . . . There are no excuses. They're not doing the job and I'm not doing the job."

Said Wayne Gretzky: "Maybe his comments should have been made four months ago. We're living on past history. We can't do that anymore."

The review from the fans was succinct. They booed the obligatory public-address announcement of the sellout, chanting, "Refund, refund."

They didn't even get to see a King goal--from Gretzky or anyone else. Gretzky, without a goal in three consecutive games, remains three away from tying and four from breaking Gordie Howe's NHL record of 801. His last goal was last Wednesday in Hartford. He had two shots on goal against the Blackhawks.

Oddly enough, Gretzky has never scored against Chicago goaltender Ed Belfour. "That's pretty impressive when you look at how many goals Wayne has scored," Chicago Coach Darryl Sutter said. "For him not to have scored a goal on Eddie is quite an accomplishment."

Belfour, who shut out the Mighty Ducks on Tuesday at a neutral-site game in Phoenix, has recorded consecutive shutouts and has not given up a goal in 131 minutes 22 seconds.

"It just goes to show what kind of a team we have here," said Belfour, who faced 23 shots in his seventh shutout of the season. "We've been playing a defensive game and we really take a lot of pride in it."

As for the Kings, they have been shut out six times this season. With 17 games remaining, the Kings (22-35-10) have steadily lost ground in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Before Sunday's action, they were five points behind the eighth-place San Jose Sharks. Now, the margin is seven points and the Sharks play the New York Islanders tonight.

The Blackhawks got offensive production from their usual sources. Joe Murphy scored once and added two assists, and Jeremy Roenick had a goal and two assists. Michel Goulet scored his 14th goal of the season and 546th of his NHL career.

Melrose is clearly baffled by his players, who called a team meeting late Wednesday night. "Something will blow up, either me or something else," he said. "They mean a lot to me. To see them as a shadow of last season's team, it's been very hard."

King Notes

Owner Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky were among those who attended John Candy's funeral service on Wednesday in Brentwood. Candy, who was an avid King fan and co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League with Gretzky and McNall, died of a heart attack in Mexico on Friday. . . . Defenseman Doug Houda returned to the lineup after sitting out three consecutive games because of a separated right shoulder. The scratches were defenseman Jim Paek and forwards Dave Taylor, Tony Granato, Phil Crowe and Dave Thomlinson. . . . Former King goaltender Gary Edwards filled in for radio color commentator Brian Engblom, who was working out of town for ESPN2 on Wednesday night.

* DUCKS LOSE: A 3-0 decision against Buffalo is the Ducks' third consecutive shutout loss. C2

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