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Kings Are Open Targets, 7-6

Hockey: L.A. rallies from early 3-0 deficit to tie Rangers, only to be betrayed again by porous defense. Palffy scores three goals.


NEW YORK — Will the last person out of this burg please turn off the red light?

Oh, and turn on some defense.

In a game largely devoid of it in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, the Rangers got two goals from Michael York and one each from Theoren Fleury, Petr Nedved, Adam Graves, Tim Taylor and Manny Malhotra in a 7-6 victory over the Kings that started eerily like a debacle of a year ago.

That one ended in an 8-3 Ranger victory.

This one ended like street hockey, to the delight of the announced 18,200 on hand and disgust of King captain Rob Blake.

"I thought it was first one to 10 wins," he said, derision plain. "There was no defense at all. You people might have liked it. The fans might have liked 13 goals, but I hated it."

Added the Rangers' Fleury in an understatement: "The goaltending wasn't very good. And the scoring chances they got were restaurant-quality."

The Rangers didn't exactly get fast-food opportunities.

King Coach Andy Murray let the numbers do the talking.

"Seven goals on 25 shots?" he said, shaking his head. "We had four times as many scoring chances. We had how many shots?"

The answer was 42, 17 more than the Rangers.

But one goal fewer.

"There's no way we're supposed to lose that game," Murray insisted.

There is a way when goalies risk whiplash watching pucks sail past.

For all of the New York offense and King lapses on defense, they nearly pulled it out. After Ziggy Palffy scored his third goal of the game, at 11:55 of the final period, King opportunities were there. When goalie Jamie Storr was pulled in the final minute, they rang up four shots, but no goals. Just in time, Ranger goalie Mike Richter was better than he had been all night long.

"I wish we had played Ziggy 60 minutes," Blake said. "That would have been our best chance to win."

The game seemed to get out of hand early, courtesy of a three-goal Ranger blitz in a span of 1:06 in the opening period, with Storr the victim.

"If I felt in the first period like I did in the third, it would have been different," said Storr, who won't admit to fatigue after 17 consecutive starts but plainly showed it.

"The first period I hurt the team. . . . Everything felt like I was just slowed down, like I couldn't get my legs. Sometimes out there you have to give yourself a little kick."

Sometimes Taylor, York and Nedved give you a big one.

It was 3-0, the game was only 6:56 old and Storr skated to the sideline. Backup Travis Scott came out for his NHL baptism.

He drowned.

So nervous was Scott that he was delayed in getting on the ice by shaky hands lacing up his hockey pants. By period's end, he found himself in the unlikely position of being able to earn a win in his NHL debut.

Scott was the beneficiary of two goals by Palffy and one by Steven Reinprecht, all scored in a 5:05 span to forge an improbable 3-3 tie.

"It was a great feeling," Palffy said of fighting back to earn a tie. "It was just the first period. There was plenty of time."

And then there wasn't.

Scott gave up goals by Fleury, York and Graves in a 5:46 span.

They were countered by a goal from recently recalled Eric Belanger, and Storr was summoned back onto the ice with 11:39 played in the second period of a game that, only 21 seconds later, seemed winnable when Craig Johnson made it 6-5.

It was a mirage.

Malhotra's goal off Storr's right skate gave New York a 7-5 lead to protect going into the final period, and the Rangers held on.

"It just seemed like whoever got the last goal was going to win the game," Richter said.

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