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DETROIT 4 KINGS 3 (SO)

Kings put up a good fight in loss to the Red Wings

October 28, 2008|HELENE ELLIOTT

If the Detroit Red Wings thought they would repeat as champions on their skills alone, if they thought adding prize free agent Marian Hossa would cure the Stanley Cup hangover that sabotaged every would-be repeat winner since 1998, the Kings reminded them Monday that it won't come easily.

Usually so sure in their own zone, the Red Wings were reduced to scrambling and dashing in too late to cover their men. Usually disciplined, they took six unnecessary penalties that gave the Kings six advantages, one of which turned into a power-play goal.

But when they were perilously close to losing they found the resilience and work ethic that served them so well last season, rallying to tie the score late in the third period and to prevail in a shootout, 4-3, on goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

The Red Wings have won five straight games, but it's a credit to the Kings that the Red Wings had to fight so hard and a credit to the Red Wings' character and depth that they could pull it off.

"We have to build on this and continue to grow as a team," winger Patrick O'Sullivan said. "We have to improve on our mistakes and understand them.

"Games like tonight are going to make this team better."

The Kings took a 3-2 lead early in the third period when an intended pass by Alexander Frolov skipped off the skate of Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and behind Chris Osgood, but Detroit tied it with 1:54 left on an opportunistic play by Valtteri Filppula.

Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier was trying to get the puck out of the corner and up the ice to teammate Jarret Stoll only to see Filppula step in and steal the pass. Filppula's wrist shot eluded Jason LaBarbera, instantly deflating Kings fans who were outcheering the normally dominant Red Wings fans scattered throughout Staples Center.

The Red Wings had scored first, at 5:54 of the first period. Brian Rafalski's shot from above the right circle was blocked on the way to the net, but an off-balance Zetterberg pounced on the puck and rifled it past LaBarbera's arm for his fifth goal of the season.

The Kings pulled even on a power-play goal by rookie Oscar Moller, who is making an emphatic case for staying with the Kings instead of returning to his junior team. Moller, so smart around the net, went to his backhand to jab in the rebound of a shot by Peter Harrold, free to make the move because former King Brad Stuart didn't tie him up.

The Kings carried the play early in the second period after they pulled ahead at 1:16 on Kyle Calder's first goal of the season. The opportunity was created when Osgood stopped an Anze Kopitar shot but couldn't control the rebound, and Calder beat Lidstrom to the puck.

The Red Wings pulled even during a five-on-three advantage they gained when two Kings were sent off at the same time, Raitis Ivanans for hooking Zetterberg and Moller for hooking Datsyuk.

Hossa, displaying extraordinary persistence to match his extraordinary skills, tied the score when he simply refused to be stopped by defensemen Sean O'Donnell and Gauthier and pushed past both to wrist the puck past LaBarbera.

The Red Wings, who lost winger Johan Franzen to a sprained left knee a few days ago and will have to get by without him for two to three weeks, are off to a fine start. But they should learn from this narrow win that they can't get by simply on talent, even the astonishing amount they've drafted, developed and gathered under the constraints of a $56.7-million salary cap.

They aren't much different than they were last spring, when they blended muscle, depth and a cohesive defense into a Cup triumph over the young Pittsburgh Penguins.

The crucial difference, of course, is the addition of Hossa, who left the Penguins as a free agent for a one-year, $7.4-million contract with the team he thought would give him the best chance of being on the right side of the post-Cup handshake line the next time he went through it.

Hossa has five goals and four assists in his last five games. He's the ingredient the Red Wings might need to keep them fresh and inspired during a long season and what they hope will be another long playoff run.

If the Red Wings wanted to gauge where they are, they could take away the thought that they're not nearly as sharp as they'll have to be. But they're a veteran team that knows it's better to build up to a big finish than to flame out early.

"We know we can still go better. We have potential here to go better," Hossa said.

Tomas Holmstrom, as always a nuisance in front of the net, agreed that the Red Wings have much to do before they can think of repeating.

"We have to play a little bit better in our own end and at the blue lines," he said. "We have lots of time to correct that stuff."

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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Ducks even record with win

Ducks are 5-5 after 3-2 victory over Columbus. PAGE 4

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