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Kings Like a Good Ending

Hockey: Miller, Palffy and Laperriere score third-period goals in a bunch to end any doubt in 4-1 victory over the Wild.

January 25, 2002|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You can string together all of hockey's "key to winning" cliches to describe the Kings' 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. And they would all fit because the bottom line is that good teams win games such as the one the Kings won Thursday night in front of 15,917 at Staples Center.

After toying around for nearly 55 minutes, the Kings delivered a finishing kick to put away the stubborn Wild to move within five points of first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.

Defenseman Aaron Miller broke a 1-1 tie 14:57 into the third period, then Ziggy Palffy added his second goal of the game 150 seconds later and Ian Laperriere followed with his sixth goal of the season to finish off the win for King goaltender Felix Potvin, who had 19 saves.

In going 15-4-3 over their last 22 games, the Kings have put together a better record than they had when they went 13-4-5 over their final 22 games of last season, when they finished with a furious run to qualify for the playoffs.

The Kings, improving to 23-18-7-2, are only a point behind Dallas for seventh place in the Western Conference.

"We played real bad for two periods but we were patient," forward Steve Heinze said of the Kings' late rally.

"We just waited them out ... it was a boring game but we came through in the end."

Although the Kings have been one of the league's hottest teams since mid-November, General Manager Dave Taylor recently said people should not be surprised if he makes a trade to pick up another forward for the stretch run.

With center Eric Belanger being placed on the injured reserve list earlier this week because of a wrist injury and winger Bryan Smolinski out because of flu symptoms, the Kings were a little thin up front against the Wild. That's one reason Taylor isn't ready to stand pat now.

"We're waiting to see about Eric," Taylor said. "He tried practicing the other day but his wrist wasn't very good so he will be out a while longer.

"If we could add one piece we would like to pick up another winger to the lineup. Getting a wing to play among our top six forwards would be a priority."

One area the Kings did fill recently was enforcer when they recalled left wing Ryan Flinn from Manchester on Monday.

Because left wing Ken Belanger is still sidelined because of a broken thumb, Flinn is being counted on to keep opposing teams in line.

After being a healthy scratch against the Mighty Ducks on Monday, Flinn got his first chance against the Wild and he didn't disappoint. Just ask Minnesota captain Brad Brown, crushed by a right cross from Flinn 6:23 into the first period.

Flinn's impressive debut must have inspired his teammates because 43 seconds after he picked up his first NHL fighting major, the Kings took a 1-0 lead on Palffy's 13th goal of the season.

With Minnesota on a power-play, the Kings attacked goaltender Manny Fernandez from all angles and Palffy scored a short-handed goal from the right circle after defenseman Mattias Norstrom's shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of a Wild defender.

Minnesota, which lost in overtime at Anaheim on Wednesday, refused to roll over after falling behind by a goal. Even though the Kings are 13-5-2-2 when scoring first this season, they failed to extend their lead in the opening period and were outshot, 9-8, over the first 20 minutes.

The Wild made the Kings pay for their off-the-mark shooting in the second period, picking up a goal similar to the way Palffy scored in the first. .

After center Jason Allison was sent to the penalty box for interference, Minnesota scored a rare power-play goal against the Kings when defenseman Nick Schultz banged in a score off the leg off Norstrom.

Potvin never had a chance and the Wild tied the game, 1-1, 5:42 into the second.

For the Kings, it was only the fifth power-play goal allowed in the last 26 games.

"The forecheck scheme that we use has been working for us and our goaltending has been key," forward Kelly Buchberger said about the Kings' penalty-killing. "Your goaltender has to always be your best penalty-killer at all times. Our defensemen have also been really strong and our forwards have been sacrificing themselves."

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