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Pro Hockey

Kings Lose Ugly

Hockey: Murray is ejected after Avalanche takes advantage of 10 power-play chances to win, 4-2.

January 27, 2002|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It had been smooth sailing for the Kings for so long that when they hit some choppy water Saturday at Staples Center, their coach seemed to snap.

Andy Murray's displeasure with referees Mike Hassenfratz and Dennis LaRue in a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche led to the ejection of the coach and a shower of debris raining down on the ice from a sellout crowd of 18,332.

It was an ugly ending to a tightly contested game between surging teams that were meeting for the first time since they battled through seven games last spring in the Western Conference semifinals. The Avalanche prevailed then, too.

The Avalanche ended up with a 10-2 power-play advantage, which apparently became too much for Murray to bear in the final minute.

The Avalanche had taken a 3-2 lead with 3:54 to play on Milan Hejduk's second power-play goal of the game, scored with King center Bryan Smolinski in the penalty box for tripping.

Then, with the Avalanche again enjoying a man advantage after King defenseman Mathieu Schneider was whistled for interference with 1:47 remaining, King center Jason Allison was knocked down by Martin Skoula.

The prudent thing for Allison to do at that point, probably, would have been to turn the other cheek. Instead, he took a shot at the defenseman.

"You've got to play the way you play," Allison explained.

He was called for roughing, and Murray turned red on the bench.

When Hassenfratz gave him a bench minor, the crowd expressed its displeasure by littering.

The ice was pelted with beer, soda, peanuts and other debris.

When it was cleaned off and the game resumed about 10 minutes later, the Avalanche had a two-man advantage for the final 34 seconds.

And Murray was in the dressing room, having been ejected.

He had to watch on television as Chris Drury scored his second goal with four seconds to play, capping the Avalanche's sixth consecutive victory.

Murray was much calmer afterward, though still upset.

"It's disappointing," he said of the officiating, "because it's a tight-checking, highly competitive, physical hockey game. I felt for our players. I thought we were battling, and not to be given a fair opportunity was disappointing."

Of the call on Allison, the coach said, "If anything, the referee could have saved a little bit of credibility by sending them both off."

Murray questioned why Hassenfratz and LaRue, who also worked Thursday night's 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild, were back in Staples Center less than 48 hours after awarding the Wild a 6-3 power-play advantage.

Though he said he was not surprised to be slapped with a game misconduct, he indicated that his behavior might not have warranted an ejection.

"I just asked the referee to come over and give me an explanation," he said. "I didn't swear at him. I just said, 'Come over and tell me what's going on.'

"He refused."

His outburst, the coach said, was a statement to his players.

"We may be the L.A. Kings and a team that's still trying to emerge," he said, "but we merit the same type of refereeing as everybody else does."

Most surprisingly, perhaps, Murray praised the crowd's reaction.

"I thought the fans were great tonight," he said. "I think they were just like us. They were frustrated."

The Kings, who got a first-period goal from Ian Laperriere, had overcome a 2-1 deficit, pulling even on a third-period power-play goal by Jaroslav Modry.

But the Avalanche, which had won only one of its previous 10 regular-season games in Los Angeles, kept the pressure on and eventually emerged with a victory that improved its record to 20-4-5-1 since Nov. 21.

The Kings, 15-5-3 since Dec. 8, had won nine of their last 11.

Murray's players, for the most part, refused to indict the referees.

"You've still got to help yourself," Smolinski said. "We put ourselves in situations that got us some penalties. You can't do that. It was lopsided, but so what? You've got to realize what they're calling and act accordingly."

Said winger Steve Heinze: "Like my mother used to tell me: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything."

The former Boston Bruin said he'd never seen a coach ejected.

And sodas showering the ice?

"Saw that a lot in Boston."

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Flagging the Penalties

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