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Kings Win as Nicholls Leads the Way, 9-3 : His 8 Points Against Toronto Give Him Top Spot in NHL Scoring Race

Times Staff Writer

Bernie Nicholls got a standing ovation from fans at the Forum Thursday night, and rightfully so.

Nicholls had 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points, breaking the club record for both points in a game and assists in a game as the Kings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 9-3, before a crowd of 11,924.

He raised his season point total to 63, passing Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux (61) for the National Hockey League lead.

Nicholls, who now has 30 goals, already led the NHL in that category.

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He also set a club record by scoring the 30 goals in 26 games, beating the record for the fastest 30 goals set in 1980-81 by Charlie Simmer, who did it in 30 games.

Meanwhile, King captain Dave Taylor had a hat trick, and Wayne Gretzky had 5 assists to take the league lead with 40, 3 more than Lemieux, and raise his point total to 60, just 1 behind Lemieux.

“Davey gets a hat trick and an assist and he doesn’t get a star,” Nicholls said, referring to the players honored after every game.

But there was just too much going on in this game to honor everyone.

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Nicholls’ assist on Luc Robitaille’s goal at the beginning of the third period was his seventh point of the game, breaking the club record of 6 that was held by several players, including Gretzky and Nicholls. Nicholls centered the puck for Robitaille from behind the net, and Robitaille scored to give the Kings a 7-1 lead.

Nicholls tossed the puck to a manager on the bench for safekeeping. He wanted something to remember the night by.

His final assist, on Taylor’s goal at 18:22 of the third period, was his sixth of the night, breaking the record of 5 held by Gretzky and several others.

It took Nicholls forever to get back to the locker room. He had to do the TV interview. He had to chat with stars such as John Candy. He had to sign autographs.

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All because he kept finding himself in the right place at the right time on the ice.

“It was one of those nights when everywhere I went, the puck was there, and there would be guys open,” Nicholls said. “It’s awesome. I can’t believe I passed Lemieux. That’s what happens when you get to play with the great guys I’m playing with.”

Nicholls had assists on all 3 of the Kings’ goals in the first period--scored by Bob Carpenter, Taylor and Robitaille--as they jumped to a 3-0 lead.

Interestingly enough, the first 2 goals were on power plays. Before the game, the Kings (17-9) ranked 19th in the league in power-play scoring, having converted just 22 of 126 opportunities (17.5%). Thursday night, they scored on 2 of 5.

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When a team gets down by 3 goals to the Kings, it’s in trouble.

Nicholls said: “A team just can’t afford to open up against us. We have too much offense . . .

“Everybody knows that they can’t take us lightly. They can’t come in here for a holiday.”

The game was delayed 10 minutes at the start of the second period because of a frightening injury to Toronto defenseman Brian Curran.

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Curran made a dive at the mouth of the net trying to stop a shot by Steve Duchesne, and Duchesne fell over him, trying to dive over him but catching a knee on the side of Curran’s head and snapping Curran’s head sideways.

Curran was left with a feeling of numbness in his neck, but he was able to move his hands and feet before being taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for neurological tests, which showed no serious injury. He was reported to have suffered a hyperextension of the cervical spine.

In the second period, the Kings took a 4-0 lead at 3:37 when Nicholls centered the puck from the right side of the net to Taylor, who scored his second goal of the game.

And the score went to 5-0 when Nicholls was credited with a goal on a clearing pass by Toronto defenseman Rick Lanz that glanced off Nicholls’ skate. Said Nicholls: “You’ve got to take those.”

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Ken Baumgartner’s 5-minute penalty for butt-ending, which drew an automatic game misconduct, coupled with a 2-minute roughing penalty against Marty McSorley, put the Kings two men down at 10:10. The Maple Leafs scored 34 seconds later when left wing Vincent Damphousse re-directed a shot by center Ed Olczyk.

The Maple Leafs still had more than 4 minutes left on their power play, but before the penalty was killed, Nicholls scored his 30th goal, taking a lead pass from Gretzky and skating across open ice to beat Ken Wregget and make it a 6-1 game at 14:01.

In the third period, goals by Robitaille, Mike Allison and Taylor gave the Kings a 9-1 lead. In the final 2 minutes, Glenn Healy allowed goals to Daniel Marois and Dan Daoust.

Toronto Coach John Brophy coached the entire third period with an ugly gash on the back of his head that bled onto his suit. Brophy hit his head on the overhang above the tunnel leading from the locker room to the ice. He refused treatment until after the game.

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King Coach Robbie Ftorek watched the game from the press area, midway up in the stands, to get a different perspective. He left the primary coaching duties to assistants Bryan Maxwell and Cap Raeder. Raeder watches most games from the press box.

King Notes

King defenseman Ken Baumgartner got his second game misconduct in a row, and a third will bring with it an automatic 1-game suspension. . . . The Kings have scored in 197 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NHL, dating to March 12, 1986. . . . Goalie Rollie Melanson, who cleared waivers Tuesday, has decided to stay in New Haven, Conn., with the Kings’ affiliate for the time being.

The wives of the King players and staff are asking that fans bring a new, unwrapped toy with a value of $5 or more to the game against the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night for their “Kings for Kids” charity drive. They will then wrap and distribute the toys, which also will be used when the King players visit the Los Angeles and Orange County children’s hospitals Dec. 7.

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Tickets for the Kings’ New Year’s Eve game against the Dynamo Riga Soviet hockey team will go on sale today at 10 a.m. at the Forum box office and all TicketMaster outlets.


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