Kings Are No Match for Flames : L.A. Is Left Defenseless After Ejection in 8-6 Loss

Times Staff Writer

The hockey game was barely 6 minutes old when defenseman Steve Duchesne swung at a high puck behind the Kings’ net and hit the Flames’ Doug Gilmour in the mouth. It was an accident. But Gilmour showed the officials the blood on the inside of his lip, and Duchesne’s high-sticking penalty became a 5-minute penalty and an automatic game misconduct.

Which meant that Duchesne was through for the night. The Kings, already short on defensemen, were in for a long night.

Joe Mullen scored the first 2 of his 4 goals on the resulting power play, and Calgary was well on its way to an 8-6 victory over the Kings before a sellout crowd of 20,002 at the Saddledome Thursday night.

The victory stretched the Flames’ lead in the Smythe Division to 9 points over the Kings. The Flames are 26-8-6. The Kings, who have lost 3 straight, are 24-15-1.


King goalie Glenn Healy, who faced 41 shots and had the Flames in his crease and in his face most of the night, was none too thrilled to lose a defenseman in the early going.

“I understand a rule that was made to protect players from serious injuries, from eye injuries, but does the rule say they have to inspect the inside of a player’s mouth looking for blood?” Healy asked.

Duchesne was only half-joking when he wondered aloud whether Gilmour might have intentionally bitten the inside of his lip.

And Wayne Gretzky once again stated his objection to a rule that leaves the officials with no option but to eject a player who unintentionally has injured another with a high stick.

“It’s an awful rule,” Gretzky said. “It’s the worst rule in the National Hockey League. A silly rule. You can’t tell me that you can’t tell the difference between an accident and a hit when you’re deliberately trying to hurt someone. The puck got a little high and his stick got a little high. Sure, he should get 5 minutes for high sticking. But should he get tossed out of the game?

“The referees are not to blame for this rule, it’s the Board of Governors. Guys who have never played hockey in their lives. I think we should give more power back to the referees to make the judgment. We should give them more respect to be able to make that call. It’s a rule that needs to be changed now.”

Which would be a little too late for the Kings in their all-out battle with their Smythe Division nemesis. Calgary, which has lost only 1 game at home all season, now leads the series, 3-2.

The Kings were at least able to turn a game that the Flames, the league’s best defensive team, would rather have played close, into a wide-open shootout.

After Mullen had given the Flames a 2-0 lead, Bernie Nicholls took the puck in front of the Flames’ net and beat Mike Vernon, and Igor Liba tied the score at 2-2 before the first period ended.

Joel Otto directed in a long shot by Al MacInnes to put the Flames ahead at the start of the second period on their third straight power-play goal, but John Tonelli then scored for the Kings.

Doug Crossman gave the Kings a brief 4-3 lead before Brad McCrimmon scored consecutive goals to give the Flames a 5-4 lead at the end of the second period.

At that point, the Flames had outshot the Kings, 32-16.

In the third period, Tonelli tied it again, before Mullen gave the Flames a 6-5 lead with his third goal, lifting a shot over Healy, who was on the ice after stopping a shot by Theoren Fleury.

Dave Taylor tied it, 6-6, for the Kings, sliding past the goal on the left side while putting in a pass from Mike Krushelnyski.

But Gilmour gave the Flames their winning goal with 5:15 left, getting a rebound past Healy.

Mullen’s fourth goal, scored with a minute left, was a deflection of Gilmour’s shot from the blue line, a shot that Healy thought went off Mullen’ skate.

With only 4 defensemen (Tom Laidlaw, Tim Watters, Dale DeGray and Crossman) healthy enough to play, the Kings had to play a wide-open game to have a chance. Coach Robbie Ftorek of the Kings was forced to use defenseman Ken Baumgartner, even though he has not fully recovered from the pneumonia that kept him out of the last home games. But he made the trip because Marty McSorley, who has been playing defense for the Kings the last 4 games, stayed home with a back-and-shoulder injury.

Ftorek even used Krushelnyski (a center) as a defenseman.

“Four defensemen are not enough against a team that charges into the zone like that,” Ftorek said. “It tends to wear down your defense.”