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This Tie Looks Good to Both

The Kings and Ducks each can take a measure of satisfaction from a 2-2 draw that keeps them even in the standings.

November 30, 2002|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

There was happy news all over the Arrowhead Pond, which sounded like home not only to the Ducks but the Kings. Everyone came out a winner, or at least walked away with a parting gift, Friday.

One point.

A 2-2 tie was little more than a push for two teams in a three-way tie for seventh in the Western Conference. As at any good carnival, no one walked away a loser.

The Kings, playing with a roster heavy with minor league call-ups, took the fight to the Ducks from the start, pleasing the thousands of King fans among the announced 17,174 -- officially a sellout with plenty of empty seats.

The Ducks, who have had to play the extra five minutes six of the last nine games, didn't lose in overtime. They didn't blow a two-goal lead late to settle for a tie. This was progress.

"These overtime games are starting to add up a little, too much actually," Duck center Steve Rucchin said. "When you look at all the one-goal losses we had last season, it shows we're a better team now. It's a little step."

A step during a game in which there were some minor leaps forward.

The Kings got a goal from Bryan Smolinski, his first in nine games and second in the last 16. Steve Heinze, recycled from minor league Manchester, had a key assist to set up Eric Belanger's third-period goal. The two goals were enough to extend the Kings' unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2) against the Ducks.

"I like the determination," King Coach Andy Murray said. "We kept our focus to get the point. And this was a road game no matter what it sounded like in the building."

The Ducks, meanwhile, could revel in the extra revenue brought in by the Kings' fans.

They also got a brilliant moment from rookie Stanislav Chistov, who outworked three King players in a sequence that led to Keith Carney's game-tying goal 3 minutes 28 seconds into the third period. The Ducks neither bobbled a two-goal lead in the third period, as they did in their previous two games, nor lost in overtime.

This time they had to rally after Heinze became the Miracle from Manchester.

No one expected to see him back with the Kings, yet he took advantage of Duck confusion behind the net. Heinze ended up with the puck behind the net and centered to Belanger, whose one-timer gave the Kings a 2-1 lead 33 seconds into the third period.

Heinze, disappointing after signing a three-year, $6-million contract in the summer of 2001, was left exposed for the waiver draft before the season. He went unclaimed and was shipped to Manchester.

But after the Kings went through triage this week, he was brought back, along with Jason Holland and Kip Brennan. With Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh, Lubomir Visnovsky and Ian Laperriere all out with injuries, the Kings were left with a lineup that was more "Who's That?" than "Who's Who."

"We're in survival mode," King defenseman Mattias Norstrom said. "That's kind of the hockey we have been playing the last few weeks. We got a lot of guys missing, but we have been playing pretty well."

Chistov got the Ducks even three minutes later. He toyed with King defensemen for several seconds, then came from behind the net for a shot.

Goalie Jamie Storr made the save, but Chistov lunged and tapped the rebound in front of the net, where Carney was able to chip a shot in.

"I thought we responded very well, considering the last two games we kind of caved in the third period," Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said.

The Ducks did their collapsing early Friday, as an innocent play behind their net led to the Kings' first goal.

Giguere retrieved the puck behind the net as the Kings' Erik Rasmussen went past defenseman Niclas Havelid and zeroed in. Rasmussen ended up with the puck and centered to Smolinski, who may not get an easier goal this season. That gave the Kings a 1-0 lead just 2:52 into the game.

"It was a misunderstanding," Havelid said. "I was yelling to Jiggers to play it. He heard me too late, I guess."

But Smolinski giveth and Smolinski taketh away, with Havelid benefiting.

Smolinski was about to be called for a penalty, but before the officials could stop play, the Ducks raced up ice. Marc Chouinard crossed the blue line, then made a no-look backhand pass to Havelid, who blistered a shot past Storr.

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