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It's a Fluke, but Kings Will Take It


Seconds earlier, Wayne Gretzky had missed an ideal scoring opportunity. New York Ranger goaltender Mike Richter was down and not getting up any time soon, but Gretzky banged a shot off the right post in the third period.

So, who needs to score on a quality chance, anyway?

Gretzky then promptly put in a slow-moving squibber--a shot that probably wouldn't even register on a radar gun--on the ensuing faceoff from the left circle, helping lead the Kings to a 5-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night before an announced crowd of 14,358 at the Forum.

He often jokes about rarely winning faceoffs, but Gretzky's third goal of the season came on a faceoff against his former Oiler teammate and close friend Mark Messier. Gretzky got his stick on the puck and pushed it slowly toward Richter. Richter had his stick on the ice but missed the puck as it trickled between his pads.

The unassisted power-play goal came at 7:34 of the third period, giving the Kings a 3-2 lead.

"I feel sorry for Richter," King Coach Larry Robinson said. "I think he expected it to go to his stick and it bounced. The gods were with us tonight."

For the Kings (5-3-4), it was a departure from their goaltenders giving up fluke goals in the last week. Despite being outshot, 49-19, the Kings stopped a four-game winless streak. It was only their second victory since defenseman Rob Blake suffered a partially torn ligament of his left knee on Oct. 20.

A little less than seven minutes later, Gretzky set up what seemed to be the insurance goal, making a nice move on Ranger defenseman Brian Leetch along the right side and hitting forward Pat Conacher with a cross-ice pass. The goal by Conacher, his second of the season, came at 14:20.

It turned out the Kings needed that goal when the Rangers pulled Richter for an extra attacker and cut the lead to 4-3 on Alexei Kovalev's goal from the base of the left circle with 1:03 remaining. Former King left wing Luc Robitaille assisted on the goal for his only point of the night.

King goaltender Byron Dafoe could hardly be faulted, considering it was the Rangers' 48th shot of the night. Dafoe, who faced 49 shots, survived another surge in the final minute before King forward Jari Kurri put it away with an empty-netter with 38 seconds remaining.

Dafoe, incredibly, has faced 107 shots in his last two starts. And he didn't lose either game.

It may have been in a different country, a different opponent--but it was Toronto revisited for Dafoe. Saturday, Dafoe made 56 saves in a 2-2 tie against the Maple Leafs.

"The moon was on the right side tonight," Robinson said. "They had what altogether, 49? That was a god-awful win. Did he get all three stars tonight?"

Robinson, among other things, had spoken about how important it was for the Kings to cut down on their shots-against this season. But they have given up the most shots in the league. Reminded of his preseason statement, Robinson said: "I probably shouldn't have said that."

It became apparent early on that Dafoe would be tested again as the Rangers outshot the Kings, 22-4, after the first period and 36-12 after two. But the Kings led, 2-1, after the second period as left wing Eric Lacroix scored in the first period and added another in the second for his first two goals of the season.

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