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There's Still a Flicker of Hope for Kings : Hockey: Los Angeles remains eight points behind San Jose after beating Edmonton, 4-3, in overtime.

March 26, 1994|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EDMONTON, Canada — Living on the edge took on a new meaning for the Kings, who were 2:02 away from falling 10 points behind the San Jose Sharks in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

And King Coach Barry Melrose knew what a loss would have meant with 10 games remaining in the season. "You guys would be writing our obituary if we lose," he said.

Hold the presses.

The Kings remained eight points out of a playoff spot, and it took a bit of high drama and some luck to defeat the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, in overtime here on Friday night before a sellout crowd of 17,503 at Northlands Coliseum. King left wing Mike Donnelly redeemed himself when he forced overtime with his goal on a breakaway at 17:58 of the third period and then won it at 2:24 of overtime with a blast from just inside the left circle.

"It looked pretty bleak," said Donnelly, whose goals were his 19th and 20th of the season. "For us, we knew we had to win. It was a huge game."

Said Edmonton Coach Glen Sather: "We had them on the ropes."

What helped the Kings escape, actually, were two outstanding saves by goaltender Kelly Hrudey on Jason Arnott and Scott Thornton with the Oilers on the power play. It was Donnelly who had taken an untimely hooking penalty at 15:43 of the third.

A depressed Donnelly sat in the penalty box.

So what was he thinking?

"Please don't score," he said.

Instead, Hrudey made the two saves, and Donnelly came out of the penalty box and was set up on the breakaway by defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. Donnelly has had problems scoring on the breakaway all season. But he used his superior speed and finished it off by sticking a back-hander under Oiler goaltender Fred Brathwaite's glove.

Before the game, Brathwaite, who is now 0-9-1, said: "I'd like to make sure they don't make the playoffs."

But maybe it won't matter what the Kings (25-38-11) do in their final 10 games. After the Sharks struggled with two losses (Ottawa, Kings) and a tie against the Kings, they seemed to turn into a new team this week. On what had been considered a formidable road trip, San Jose tied Pittsburgh, beat Toronto on Thursday and defeated Winnipeg on Friday.

In five days, the Sharks' lead went from five points to eight points over the ninth-place Kings, who lead the Mighty Ducks by two points.

And the Kings could have trailed the Sharks by 10 points. Luck seemed to be on the Kings' side in more ways than one on Friday. There was a scary moment midway through the second period when King right wing John Druce suffered a sprained neck, mild concussion and a cut above his right eye after Oiler defenseman Gord Mark smashed him into the boards with a check from behind at 9:33.

Druce crumpled to the ice and was attended to by King trainer Pete Demers. He did not return and will be re-evaluated today. "It's all right," Druce said. "I'm a little dizzy and my neck is a little stiff. It's like I jammed my neck."

Mark received a five-minute major for checking from behind and an automatic game misconduct. But the Kings could not capitalize on the five-minute major, which finished off a stretch in which they were on the power play for 6:53.

The Kings took a 2-1 lead after first-period goals from Tony Granato (seventh of the season) only 38 seconds into the period and Darryl Sydor at 17:21. Sydor's goal broke a 1-1 tie. For Granato, it was his first goal on the road, and he had not scored since Jan. 25 against Winnipeg.

King Notes

The Oilers honored Wayne Gretzky with a special pregame ceremony, giving him a bronzed plaque of the score sheet from the night he scored his first NHL goal in 1979. The crowd gave him a long standing ovation. . . . The theme seemed to be Friday Bloody Friday when referee Terry Gregson and King defenseman Alexei Zhitnik suffered bloody noses in the first three minutes of the second period. The game was delayed for about five minutes when Gregson went down with a bloody nose in the left corner in the Kings' zone after Oiler right wing Scott Thornton accidentally high-sticked him in the face 1:39 into the period. Thornton was going to make a check and his stick clipped Gregson, who started bleeding profusely. After the delay, Zhitnik got hit in the face with a puck at the three-minute mark, but he made it to the bench before he started bleeding.

Left wing Warren Rychel returned to the lineup after missing one game with a broken nose. Rychel wore a face shield to protect his nose and left eye. He suffered the broken nose on Sunday in a fight against Shark enforcer Jeff Odgers. . . . The best way not to break into the Kings' lineup? Get traded to Los Angeles. Among the scratches were three players who were traded to the Kings this season--defensemen Doug Houda and Jim Paek and forward Dixon Ward.

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