Remember that gloriously easy victory the Kings enjoyed in the debut of the Great Gretzky?
Well, that was a special case. Reality has set in. This hockey business is brutal, nerve-wracking work, even with Wayne Gretzky on the ice leading the way to an unprecedented 3-0 start.
Sunday night at the Forum, the Kings played their second straight sudden-death overtime before 11,592 and they won their second straight sudden-death overtime, 6-5, over the New York Islanders.
The winning goal was scored by defenseman Steve Duchesne, who swooped down the right side and fired a shot from the top of the circle that beat veteran goalie Billy Smith on the stick side with 1:43 left on the clock.
Nothing easy about it. They fought for it. They battled back to tie it.
It was just after Islander defenseman Gerald Diduck had smashed Bob Carpenter face first into the boards that the Kings took advantage of the power play to tie the game at 5-5 as defenseman Marty McSorley took a pass from Bernie Nicholls and skated in on Islander goalie Billy Smith and slipped the puck into the net.
That was with 5:07 left in regulation.
Looking back on it, McSorley said that maybe he should have passed the puck to Gretzky. But no one else was second-guessing him. Everyone else was rejoicing in the team effort and the effect that the Gretzky trade in its totality is having on the team.
As Coach Robbie Ftorek said: “The trade wasn’t a one-man trade. We have seven new guys and all the pieces are fitting together so far.”
McSorley, who came along with Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers, had 2 goals and an assist Sunday night. He scored the goal that tied the game at 1-1 and the goal that sent the game into overtime.
Goalie Glenn Healy, who once again was a key to the Kings’ victory, was saying that the Gretzky trade had given the Kings a new confidence. “There was a changed attitude the day they made the trade,” he said. “Twenty guys lifted their heads up and say, hey, we’re going to be a better team. In that way, he helps everyone.
“This team can be so explosive, at any time, that no matter how many goals we’re down, I know our offense can do it.
“There were times last year when we were down, and I could only think, ‘Oh, no, that team is going to come and come and come.’ Now I think that that we’re going to dig our way out of it.”
After stopping 47 shots on Saturday night, Healy came back to stop 37 Sunday night, holding off the Islanders while his own scorers dug their way out.
It took 3 straight goals even to get into overtime--2 at the end of the second period and the only goal of the third period.
The Kings opened the third period down by a goal but also down by a man while John Tonelli finished up 4:51 of the 5-minute penalty he picked up at the end of the second period, an automatic game misconduct for high sticking.
Healy made some big saves as the Kings killed that penalty, and he stayed sharp as the Islanders continued to fire at him. Healy, getting his first turn in goal against Calgary after Rollie Melanson sprained his left knee in the opener, now has 2 victories after stopping 74 shots.
The Kings were battling back all night long.
In the second period the Islanders seemed to take charge, going up, 5-2, on goals by Ken Morrow and Pat LaFontaine. With 3:48 to play in the period a penalty was called on Islander Richard Pilon for holding, but before the Kings could launch an attack on the power play, Ftorek picked up a bench minor penalty. That canceled out the power play.
Things were looking bleak for the Kings when, with just 1:11 to play in the second period center Bernie Nicholls chipped in the rebound of a shot by Mike Krushelnyski (who came from Edmonton with Gretzky), and with 14 seconds to play in the period Gretzky skated down the left side, weaving through the defense, and put a 35-foot left-handed slapshot past Smith into the upper right-hand corner of the net.
Bernie Nicholls had stood over the puck in the left faceoff circle, he had pulled back to shoot it a couple of times but he waited--while the final seconds of the first period ticked away--until the time was right. When he finally slapped it towards the Islanders’ net, Krushelnyski was ready to deflect it past goalie Billy Smith. That goal, with 4 seconds left in the period, pulled the Kings to within 3-2.
In every game in this young season the Kings have given up the first goal. Sunday night Bryan Trottier gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead. Trottier won a faceoff in the left circle and then went to the net, so he was all set when Pilon’s shot from the left point was deflected away by Healy. Trottier put in the rebound.
McSorley evened the score for the Kings. He and Tim Tookey had a 2-on-1 breakaway that came up short on their first shot, but the shot forced Smith to his knees and when they circled around behind the net to attack from the right side, Smith was still scrambling. McSorley poked in a pass from Tookey.
Rookie David Volek put in the rebound of his own shot to put the Islanders up again, and Pat LaFontaine made it a 2-goal lead for the Islanders with a power-play goal just over a minute later. Healy was on his back after stopping a shot by Tomas Jonsson, and while Healy’s teammates were busy keeping Trottier away from the rebound, LaFontaine skated over to put it in the net.