Jets Shove Kings Over the Edge and Out of the Playoffs With a 4-4 Tie
It’s all over for the Kings.
They were officially eliminated from the National Hockey League playoff picture Wednesday night by a 4-4 overtime tie against the Winnipeg Jets before 8,843 fans at the Forum.
The Kings wasted a 4-2 third-period lead.
“This is the first time in my life that I haven’t made the playoffs,” King goalie Roland Melanson said while fighting back the tears. “It’s a tough thing to swallow. I have never had this empty feeling in my stomach.”
The Kings got a big break when the Edmonton Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks, 8-4, earlier Wednesday night to keep the Kings’ slim playoff hopes alive.
But the Kings couldn’t take advantage of it, and Vancouver still clinched the fourth and final playoff berth in the Smythe Division.
Vancouver (22-43-13) has 57 points with two games left--Saturday against the Kings and Sunday against Edmonton--and the Kings (23-48-8) have 54 points with one game left and no chance to catch the Canucks.
The Kings were leading by two goals when the Edmonton-Vancouver score was announced at the start of the third period.
It should have given the Kings some extra incentive to win, but they couldn’t hold onto a two-goal lead and will miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Kings gave up a shorthanded goal to Laurie Boschman just 1 minute 11 seconds into the third period. The Jets pulled goalie Brian Hayward for an extra skater with 1:04 left, and the move paid off when center Dale Hawerchuk scored the tying goal with 55 seconds left in regulation.
The Kings pulled Melanson for an extra skater with 53 seconds left in overtime, but didn’t get a good shot.
“We didn’t have the poise to hold the lead,” King Coach Pat Quinn said. “It might have been a coaching error to have a forward on the point at the start of the third period. It was certainly a disappointment. I guess it was an appropriate note to the rest of the season. It’s hard when you don’t believe in yourselves.”
The Kings could have made the playoffs by winning their final two games against Winnipeg and Vancouver while Vancouver lost its final three against Edmonton, Los Angeles and Edmonton.
The Canucks cooperated by losing to Edmonton, but the Kings didn’t do their part.
“Things didn’t go our way,” said King captain Dave Taylor, who had a goal and an assist. “We knew Edmonton won and we had to win our game.
“But Winnipeg battled back, and it cost us our season. We had problems all year holding onto leads. We have to develop a killer instinct.”
The Kings scored three consecutive goals in the second period to take their 4-2 lead.
The Kings had a power play at the start of the third period, but Boschman stole the puck from defenseman Mark Hardy at the blue line and scored a shorthanded goal.
“I just knocked it by Mark Hardy, and Perry Turnbull picked up the puck, passed it back to me and I was able to put it in,” Boschman said.
Asked to describe the play, King goalie Melanson said, “I’d like somebody to tell me what happened. We had a power play and then all of a sudden they had a two-on-one.
“I played it as well as I could. I just got a piece of it.”
Hawerchuk scored during a scramble in front of the net.
“Ray Neufeld put the puck out front, and (Thomas) Steen took a shot and the rebound stayed in front,” Hawerchuk said in describing the goal. “I just had to reach out for it.”
Trailing, 2-1, after the first period, the Kings controlled the second period, but it turned out to be their last gasp.
Center Bernie Nicholls scored a shorthanded goal to tie it at 11:19 of the second period, and Taylor scored just 36 seconds later to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. Defenseman Dean Kennedy scored his second goal of the season at 13:28, but it turned out to be too little.
Neufeld and Paul MacLean scored the other goals for the Jets.
Right wing Jim Fox of the Kings scored the first goal 52 seconds into the game.
Left wing Craig Duncanson, the Kings’ first draft pick last June, made his NHL debut against the Jets. . . . The Kings will hold fan appreciation night Saturday. Each fan will be given a team picture, and prizes will also be awarded.