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Unroadworthy Kings Take a Wrong Turn

Hockey: A 4-3 loss at Winnipeg leaves distracted team's streak at 0-11-4 away from home.

February 27, 1996|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WINNIPEG, Canada — The league's March 20 trading deadline imposes a cutoff point on guessing about Wayne Gretzky's future with the Kings. But there appears to be no cutoff point for the Kings' road winless streak.

Despite a decent effort and a late push that inspired Winnipeg forward Ed Olczyk to hurl himself in front of a shot by John Slaney, the Kings lost to the Jets, 4-3, Monday before a lively 13,107 at the Winnipeg Arena.

The loss dropped the Kings (18-31-15) two points behind Winnipeg (25-30-4) in the scramble for the final Western Conference playoff berth, extended their overall winless streak to 0-6-3 and their road misfortunes to 0-11-4.

Goaltender Kelly Hrudey's personal road winless streak stretched to 0-8-4. His last road victory was at Winnipeg, last May 2.

"It would have been nice to repeat that," he said. "We played pretty well tonight and again, no points to show for it. This one is very disappointing. We all realize how big a game this was tonight."

Three times, the Kings cut two-goal Winnipeg leads to one goal, showing resilience even after Kevin Stevens was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin on a penalty shot at 17:46 of the first period. The Jets were leading, 2-0, on Keith Tkachuk's 35th and 36th goals when Jeff Finley hooked Stevens to set up the penalty shot.

"I was trying to put the puck over his stick and he kind of read me," Stevens said. "I put my head down and he closed [the hole between his leg pads].

"We could have won this game as easily as we lost it. You get in a hole and it's tough to get out. It keeps snowballing."

Slaney finally beat the Russian goalie at 5:32 of the second period, during a power play, but Chad Kilger, acquired by Winnipeg from the Mighty Ducks in the Teemu Selanne trade, rifled a shot past Hrudey at 5:43 for a 3-1 Winnipeg lead.

Shane Churla's first goal as a King, on the deflection of a shot by Marty McSorley, brought the Kings within a goal again, at 8:09 of the second period, but Darrin Shannon put the Jets ahead, 4-2, at 11:35 when he slipped the puck inside the right post.

Jarri Kurri's 15th goal of the season, with 4:32 to play, brought the Kings within reach again, but they couldn't pull even. "Close is not good enough these days," Kurri said. "We have to find a way to win these games, it's as simple as that."

The Jets, who had lost six of their previous nine games, sympathized with the Kings having to deal daily with the fuss over Gretzky's status.

"With all the distractions we had about our move, we can understand what they're going through," Olczyk said, referring to the club's sale and move to Phoenix next season. "For us, it's been hard to play consistently well. On the whole, I think this was a gutsy win for us."

For King Coach Larry Robinson, it was another gut-wrenching loss. "We're playing well enough most nights to win hockey games," he said, "but we're not winning, and that's the bottom line."

*

King Notes

Kevin Stevens' penalty shot was the first for the Kings this season. The last successful penalty shot by a King was by Dan Quinn last March 21 against Mikhail Shtalenkov of the Mighty Ducks. . . . Forward Steve Larouche (bruised left foot), defenseman Philippe Boucher (sore left hand) and defenseman Rob Cowie (sprained ankle) did not play and defenseman Aki Berg was a healthy scratch.

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