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Role Player Assumes Lead Role

April 27, 2001|ELLIOTT TEAFORD

DENVER — The Big Picture in Game 1 of the Kings' second-round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche grew cloudier by the minute Thursday. Predictability, and the Avalanche, took a beating at the Pepsi Center.

The Kings and Avalanche played in fits and starts, without one hero or one villain or one goat appearing until defenseman Jaroslav Modry stepped forward to score the winning goal 14:23 into overtime.

Perhaps that was to be expected so early in a series with so many subplots that it's difficult to keep track. Perhaps it's time to add another story line to the mix: unknown defenseman ripping the puck by the Hall of Fame goaltender to give his team a fifth consecutive playoff victory and its third in as many overtime games.

By game's end, Jaroslav Modry had skated into the spotlight, making the Kings 4-3 winners before a stunned sellout crowd of 18,007. Clearly, they had not expected this. Who could have?

Rob Blake had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche in his first game against the Kings since he was traded with center Steve Reinprecht to Colorado for winger Adam Deadmarsh and Aaron Miller more than two months ago.

Deadmarsh had an assist, knocking a clearing pass out of the zone and slipping a pretty pass to Nelson Emerson for a second-period goal. Miller played with his customary gritty style.

Other potential story lines fizzled, as well.

Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque is seeking his first Stanley Cup championship, but didn't have much of an impact in Game 1. He and his teammates must play with better precision if they hope to avoid the fate that befell the Detroit Red Wings in an opening-round loss to the Kings.

Patrick Roy, Colorado's goaltender, was simply ordinary in giving up four King goals that he might have handled in another game against another team. But the fact is that Roy was merely average in the Avalanche's four-game sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.

Joe Sakic, Colorado's brilliant center, wasn't a factor.

Peter Forsberg assisted on goals by Blake and Chris Drury and potted the tying goal with 4:30 remaining in the third period, but wasn't his usual eye-catching self. Yep, it was your basic ho-hum three-point game for Forsberg. Believe it or not, he's capable of so much more.

On the Kings' side, goalie Felix Potvin was perhaps their best player. But Luc Robitaille, Ziggy Palffy, Jozef Stumpel and other offensive standouts were muzzled. Defensemen Jere Karalahti and Mattias Norstrom took several penalties that could have proved costly if not for a stingy penalty-killing unit.

In the end, as so often happens in the playoffs, the game was decided by a face in the crowd. If you picked Modry to rocket the winning goal past Roy while the Kings were on a power play 14:23 into overtime, then you win a prize. If you picked the Kings to win Game 1, period, then you ought to head to Las Vegas.

"You just have to stay positive in overtime and wait for your chances," Modry said after his first point of the playoffs.

And to think, he probably would have spent Thursday evening wearing a nice suit if not for an arm injury that sidelined Lubomir Visnovsky for Game 1.

King Coach Andy Murray thought about returning Visnovsky to the lineup Thursday, but couldn't think of a reason to pull Modry out of it.

Good move.

"We're getting goals from different guys," Miller said. "That's important in the playoffs. You're not going to have one guy carrying you in the playoffs."

Indeed.

The Kings never would have gotten as far as overtime without two goals from winger Glen Murray, who was relatively silent in the first-round victory against Detroit, recording only two assists.

In the first period, Murray unleashed a blistering shot from the right wing that glanced off Roy's arm on the way to the back of the net. The goal gave the Kings a 1-0 lead at 9:20.

Later, with the teams deadlocked at 2-2, Murray and Bryan Smolinski broke into the Avalanche zone on a fast-developing two-on-one. Smolinski slipped the puck to Murray, who was charging hard into the slot. Murray slipped the puck by Roy's glove side for a 3-2 lead with seven minutes to play in the third period.

It might have stayed that way if not for a high-sticking penalty whistled against Ziggy Palffy with 4:50 to go, which led to Forsberg's power-play goal that tied the score at 3-3 only 20 seconds later.

Another of those lesser names stepped into the spotlight for a brief instant, helping to turn a possible King victory into another overtime adventure.

Colorado's Adam Foote had spent most of the game badgering and bedeviling the King forwards in the corners and along the boards, keeping them at a safe distance from the lackluster Roy.

But Foote set up Forsberg's goal by drawing a high-sticking penalty against Palffy. When he and Palffy got tangled up in the neutral zone, Foote kept his legs churning as the King winger whacked his stick into his torso.

In a flash, the puck was in the back of the net thanks to Forsberg and the teams were tied, 3-3.

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