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Kings Make Sure of Star Power Outage

Hockey: L.A. takes care of business with 3-0 victory over Dallas and could clinch a playoff spot tonight.

April 09, 2002|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If everything falls right for the Kings, they could clinch a playoff spot before playing their next game Thursday night at Vancouver, Canada.

Taking care of the only part of the equation in their control, they extended their winning streak to three games Monday night with a 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in front of a sellout crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center.

And if the Vancouver Canucks emerge without a point from tonight's game against the Colorado Avalanche at Denver, the Kings are in the playoffs.

Or, if the Canucks tie or lose in overtime, the Kings can sew up a playoff spot Wednesday night if the Edmonton Oilers lose or tie against the Phoenix Coyotes at Edmonton, Canada.

Otherwise, it's back into the caldron for the Kings, who got 21 saves from Felix Potvin and goals from Adam Deadmarsh, Ziggy Palffy and Bryan Smolinski. The empty-net goal by Smolinski ended a 30-game goal-scoring drought as the Kings ran their home unbeaten streak to 10 games. They are 8-0-2 at Staples Center since March 2, when they lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And after following up an 0-3-1 trip with a 3-0-1 homestand, the Kings, in fifth place in the Western Conference, have 93 points, only two fewer than the San Jose Sharks in the race for the Pacific Division title after the Sharks lost Monday night to the Minnesota Wild. Each team has three games to play, including a potential showdown Saturday at San Jose.

"It was a huge homestand for us," King defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. "I thought we got better as it went on."

Against an obviously tired team that lost Sunday night to the Ducks, 4-1, at the Arrowhead Pond, the Kings clamped down defensively, limiting the Stars to six shots on goal in the first two periods.

Potvin, who did not have a shutout in the season's first three months, matched a career high with his sixth of the season, all in his last 36 starts.

The Kings knew beforehand that with a victory they would put themselves out of the Stars' reach in the playoff race.

And they knew the odds were in their favor: They had won eight consecutive games and were 10-2 at Staples Center against teams that had played at Anaheim the night before.

"We came out with the energy we needed to and we caught Dallas tired," Schneider said. "The way they've battled us this year, that wasn't the same team. There's just nights where you're going to be like that, especially playing back-to-back games, and Anaheim's been playing great hockey.

"They've done us a big favor by playing as well as they have the night before our games."

Sitting 10th in the Western Conference after winning five consecutive division championships, one of which they followed up by winning the Stanley Cup in 1999, the Stars may have been down, but they weren't out.

They were starved for offense from the start, mustering four shots in the first period, none in the first 81/2 minutes. In the second, they had two shots, none in the first 15 minutes.

The Kings, meanwhile, took the lead with 8:08 to play in the first period after Star defenseman John Erskine retaliated against Ian Laperriere, who had drilled Mike Modano with a punishing check. After the resulting scuffle, Erskine and Laperriere were given five-minute majors for fighting, with Erskine also getting hit with instigator and 10-minute misconduct penalties.

Fifty-seven seconds into the power play, Deadmarsh scored his 28th goal, recording his career-high 61st point and extending his point-scoring streak to six games, matching the longest of his career.

With Deadmarsh camped in front, Jason Allison carried the puck behind the net, drawing defenseman Derian Hatcher away from Deadmarsh. Allison slipped a pass between Hatcher's legs and Deadmarsh flipped the puck into the net.

Midway through the third period, a save by Potvin started an odd-man rush toward the Star net, Palffy leaving a drop pass for Eric Belanger on the right side before reversing direction and circling around to the left.

Belanger carried the puck toward the net before feeding a pass through the slot to Palffy, who redirected it into the net for his 31st goal.

Smolinski's 13th goal was his first since Jan. 17.

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