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Kings Have a Bleak-Tie Affair

Hockey: Big lead vanishes in home opener when Blues score four goals in third period. Robitaille reaches milestone.

October 12, 2000|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kings took advantage of a man advantage Wednesday night, and now they have plenty of inventory if they want to repeat a promotion.

But after giving away caps on opening night at Staples Center, they gave away a four-goal lead and the game when Jochen Hecht finished off a St. Louis flurry with a goal at 19:27 of the third period of a 4-4 tie before an announced 18,118.

The Blues didn't have any advantage at all, scoring all four of their goals at even strength.

"We didn't play at all until the first 10 minutes of the third period," St. Louis Coach Joel Quenneville said.

It was enough.

"I think we hit the wall physically," King Coach Andy Murray said. "When you hit the wall physically and think you've got the game won, that's when they kick you in the teeth. And that's just how I feel: kicked in the teeth."

Arena management took away a wheelbarrow full of caps for another day in the second period after many of the fans littered the ice with them in tribute to Luc Robitaille's goal, which earned him his 1,000th point as a King.

It was No. 3 of four power-play goals the Kings rang up in fashioning a 4-0 lead, No. 2 of three in the second period alone.

"It was going to come eventually," said Robitaille, happy for delighting the opening-night crowd, if for only a while.

"This is disappointing. We had those guys where we wanted them."

And the Blues got away.

The Kings being the Kings, at least against St. Louis, no edge is safe. Two goals by Scott Young and one by Pavol Demitra, all coming within 4:27, kept the issue in doubt, and Hecht's goal turned victory into a tie, euphoria into a downer.

It also turned a cheering sellout throng into one that booed unanimously before going silently into the night.

"This one hurts," Murray said. "The big disappointment and what we talked about after the game is the people who pay the bills around here had an opportunity to stand up and cheer after 40 minutes and they went home not very happy."

After the lead, earned on power-play goals by Mathieu Schneider, Bryan Smolinski, Robitaille and Ziggy Palffy, everything stopped for the Kings.

And started for the St. Louis offense, which took advantage of Jamie Storr's misplay to earn Demitra's goal 1:15 into the final period.

Storr did his Adrian Beltre imitation on the play in which Demitra staggered through the King defense, taking the puck along and sending it goalward, where Storr's stick tipped it into the air. He reached for it, and Demitra hit the goalie glove, with the puck settling into the net to end Storr's shutout bid and cut the lead to 4-1.

"That's a good team," Storr said. "But [on the first goal], it's something that never happens."

Maybe until the Kings play St. Louis, whom they have not beaten in Los Angeles since 1997.

Buoyed by the goal, Young scored at 3:28 and 5:42 in efforts that were somewhat less tainted, but no less effective in cutting the margin to 4-3 and making certain that there would be no coasting this evening.

Or, at least, no more.

"We've got to bury teams when we've got a lead like that," said Robitaille, citing a game Saturday in which the Kings blew a 2-0 lead at Buffalo as a precedent.

"We've got to be able to play with a lead."

Hecht's goal came when he shot a puck that was rejected by Storr, the puck bouncing into the air and swatted by Smolinski onto Hecht's stick, which was waist-high. He merely bunted the puck into the net to tie things.

The Kings had taken a 1-0 lead in the first period on Schneider's blast from the blue line only four seconds into a power play.

The idea of economy apparently was appealing, because a 2-0 lead was earned when Smolinski tipped in Rob Blake's blast 15 seconds into a two-man advantage. The first Blues' penalty came when captain Chris Pronger took offense at being blasted by the Kings' Kelly Buchberger at the red line. Sixteen seconds later, Tyson Nash was detected slashing on the penalty kill, making the advantage five on three.

Robitaille became only the third player to amass 1,000 points in a King uniform--Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor are the others--on a power play in which the rules limited the assists to Ziggy Palffy and Smolinski. Every King on the ice touched the puck, starting with Blake, who sent it across ice to Schneider, who sent it to Smolinski and then to Palffy.

Robitaille was 10 feet from the goal when the puck finally found him.

Palffy's goal came when he directed in yet another Blake shot.

But a 4-0 lead wasn't enough.

In the overtime, Palffy's breakaway became a missed shot when the puck was tipped away by the stick of Blues' goalie Roman Turek.

And Storr faced 15 shots in the third period and overtime alone, 25 minutes in which he dealt with more traffic in front of him than a rush-hour commuter.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Royal Crowd

Kings' all-time leading scorers:

Marcel Dionne: 1,307

Dave Taylor: 1,069

Luc Robitaille: 1,000

Wayne Gretzky: 918

Bernie Nicholls: 917

*

BRUINS: 3

DUCKS: 2

A questionable slashing call on Ruslan Salei sets up Joe Thornton's winning goal in overtime. D4

DUCK REPORT: 4

NHL ROUNDUP: 4

KING REPORT: 5

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