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Kings in Seventh Heaven After Victory Over Canucks

April 03, 2001|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Goaltender Felix Potvin had to reach a little deeper than usual into his bag of tricks Monday, but like his cartoon namesake, the King goaltender emerged triumphant. And because he did, the Kings occupy a playoff spot in the fiercely contested Western Conference.

Potvin stopped 31 shots and Jaroslav Modry, Luc Robitaille and Ziggy Palffy took care of the offense as the Kings held on for a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before a sellout crowd of 18,118 in their regular-season finale at Staples Center. The Kings vaulted from ninth place to seventh, with 88 points. The Canucks dropped to eighth and the Phoenix Coyotes to ninth, enhancing the drama of the Kings' game tonight at Phoenix.

"To win [tonight] would certainly be sweet," Robitaille said.

Thanks to Potvin, who has fueled a 12-4-4 surge, the Kings erased the seven-point playoff deficit they faced March 2.

"I tell you, it's been a battle for about the last month and a half," Kelly Buchberger said. "Felix came and played so well he lifted the team."

Potvin extended his shutout streak to seven periods by stopping all five of the Canucks' shots in the first period. The Kings, as they had in each of the last two games, supported him by giving him a 2-0 lead to work with.

"The guys played real well in front of me," Potvin said. "I wasn't really nervous. We've been in this situation for a month. We weathered a storm in the second period and did a pretty good job."

Modry opened the scoring at 5:40 with an off-balance shot from the left side. It ended a sequence in which the Kings' grit paid off. They doggedly kept the puck in the Canucks' zone and guarded the blue line while Modry headed for the net. He fought off Matt Cooke and used his strength to plow ahead and score his fourth goal of the season.

A holding penalty on Henrik Sedin at 11:12 and an interference penalty on Denis Pederson just over a minute later gave the Kings a five-on-three manpower advantage, but they couldn't muster a shot. However, with Pederson still in the penalty box, Robitaille planted himself in front of the net, got between two defenders and deflected a shot by Mathieu Schneider past Dan Cloutier for his 37th goal.

Although Potvin's shutout string ended in the second period, the Kings didn't wilt. They maintained the brisk pace they wanted to set in order to test the Canucks' reserves on the second night of back-to-back games, and they maintained a two-goal lead after two periods.

"I don't think we played the game we wanted to play," Robitaille said. "We gave them too many shots. Felix was playing awesome again tonight."

Donald Brashear halted Potvin's shutout streak at 146 minutes 31 seconds. Potvin had left a long rebound when he used his arm to repel a shot by Ed Jovanovski, and Brashear beat Philippe Boucher to the loose puck. Brashear whipped a shot that skidded beneath Potvin's left leg, scoring his ninth goal.

The Kings protected their 2-1 lead through a penalty called against Adam Mair and extended it to 3-1 at 11:14. Again, grittiness was the crucial ingredient, as Adam Deadmarsh pushed Cooke away to prevent him from intercepting a pass by Jozef Stumpel. Deadmarsh poked the puck to Palffy, whose 40-foot blast threaded its way through a crowd in front of the net and beat Cloutier to the stick side.

The point was Palffy's 88th, second only to the 90 he scored in 1996-97 for the New York Islanders. It was also the highest single-season point total for a King since Wayne Gretzky scored 130 in 1993-94.

The Kings' penalty killers were tested twice more in the second period, and they did their job well. The Canucks managed three shots during a power play they gained at 16:47, when Bryan Smolinski was sent off for holding, but Buchberger was especially impressive in neutralizing the advantage.

"We're really proud of the way the guys battled tonight," Vancouver Coach Mark Crawford said. "I guarantee you, if we get the same kind of effort we'll beat these guys Thursday [at Vancouver]."

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