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King Offense Just Keeps Getting Uglier

Hockey: Phoenix blanks them, 3-0, for L.A.'s first back-to-back shutouts in Forum history. Scoreless streak is extended to 126 minutes.

November 02, 1998|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before Kings General Manager Dave Taylor heads to the NHL general managers' meetings Tuesday at New York, he might want to consider adding a big-time scorer to his shopping list.

There have been none in the King lineup the last two games, the most recent of which was Sunday night's 3-0 skunking by the Phoenix Coyotes, who got goals from Jyrki Lumme, Rick Tocchet and Jeremy Roenick before an announced 12,073 at the Great Western Forum.

The Kings have been shut out for the past 126 minutes 12 seconds, and 120 of those minutes came on home ice, the team's first successive shutouts in Forum history. They were blanked twice in a row at home, but that was back in 1967, their first season, and nobody can remember whether the Long Beach Civic Center or the Sports Arena--or both--was home at the time. And the shutouts were separated by a win at Boston and a shutout loss at Minnesota.

It's gotten this bad.

"We need an ugly goal," said Craig Johnson, whose shot at a vulnerable Nikolai Khabibulin sailed over the Phoenix goalie's head.

"With the ugly goals come confidence, and with confidence comes more goals. That's what we need right now, because goals are really hard to come by."

There are no ugly goals when you have only 21 of them in 11 games, none in the last two and none in three of the last four.

The definition of an ugly goal is anything you wouldn't show in a highlight film, largely because you can't see them. Maybe you see a shot and you see the puck in the net, the red light on and--behind his mask--an irritated goalie who had no chance at a save.

But somewhere along the way, something happens to turn a pretty shot into an ugly goal.

"We're in a tough situation right now," said Luc Robitaille, who had six shots, none of which found the net in his 900th NHL game. "This is what you have to do: just shoot from anywhere, and it'll hit a skate and go in. Tonight, it must have hit about 10 skates and went the other way. If we keep doing it, then next game it's going to go in."

Or the next. Or the next.

Or not, lately at least.

"It doesn't matter which team you're on, you just put the puck on the net and the talented guys will find a way to put it in the net," Robitaille said.

Lumme was talented enough not to need a lot of luck in scoring Phoenix's first goal, at 3:49 of the first period.

Well, some luck. He fired away from the left wing, only to be denied by King goalie Manny Legace, but the puck slid through the crease to the left side, where defenseman Rob Blake whiffed an attempt to clear it. Lumme merely continued behind the net and came out the other side, where the puck awaited his stick to become a 1-0 lead.

Any more scoring seemed statistics building and superfluous, given the Kings' drought.

"The guy I feel sorry for is Manny Legace," Johnson said. "He's played great for us and we haven't given him any goals."

Legace is 1-3-1, though he has given up only nine goals in 362 minutes 57 seconds, spread along seven games.

"I hate to lose," he said. "It doesn't matter how well you play if you lose. We're going through a tough time right now, but you're not going to keep Luc Robitaille or some of these other guys from scoring for long."

Goalies have for more than two hours.

Khabibulin had 31 saves, many of them against the Kings' powerless play, which had six more chances Sunday night.

And is four for 45 over 11 games.

Thirteen of those saves came in the final period, when the Kings outshot Phoenix, 13-4.

"We were desperate," Robitaille said. "We need to be that desperate for 60 minutes."

It's enough to bedevil a coach. Larry Robinson left Kings' practice Saturday with gray hair, came to the game Sunday with brown and left the Forum with it starting to go gray again.

"I thought it would change our luck," he said. "I think I'm going to get some of my money back."

Or just an ugly goal or two to keep the gray away.

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