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Kings Let a Win Get Away, Settle for 4-4 Tie With Jets : Ftorek Shuffles Lines, With Mixed Results

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Times Staff Writer

Wayne Gretzky played on the same line as Bernie Nicholls for the first time since training camp. Luc Robitaille joined them to form what figured to be sure-fire offense.

Sure enough, the Kings ended their three-game losing streak Friday night. But neither Gretzky, Nicholls nor Robitaille had a point.

The Kings had a pair of goals from John Tonelli and a goal each from Ron Duguay and Doug Crossman to tie the Winnipeg Jets, 4-4, before the second sellout of the season at the Winnipeg Arena. The standing-room-only crowd totaled 15,556.

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Yet the tie felt more like a loss for the Kings. They are winless in 4 games, and that’s a first this season.

Also, they had led, 4-2, after the second period. And they led through most of the third--until former King Paul Fenton scored his second goal of the night at 14:47 and Dale Hawerchuk tied it on the Jets’ powerful power play at 16:52.

So it was a game that got away.

Gretzky can picture in his mind’s eye the moment he saw it getting away. It was midway through the third period when the Kings had a 3-on-2 break and he ended up with the shot. He missed.

“I made a nice move, and I should have scored,” Gretzky said. “I’ve scored that goal a hundred times in my career. That would have made it 5-2. That would have been the game.”

Then Gretzky blamed himself some more.

“That was the first game we’ve played together on that line, and we need some time to get used to each other, but I was the weak link,” he said. “As the centerman, it’s my responsibility to get the puck to those guys. Those guys shouldn’t take much heat. It’s my responsibility to get it going.”

Gretzky says he hasn’t had a really strong game since Dec. 16 at Detroit.

“I haven’t played up to what I’m capable of,” he said. “I’m letting the team down. I’m making mistakes both offensively and defensively. I’m just not getting the job done.”

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Actually, the team is in a slump, not just Gretzky.

Robitaille, for example, hasn’t been showing his usual brilliance. He was sitting across the locker room saying as much, saying he needs to play through it. But Gretzky kept hogging the blame.

“Everybody’s down on Luc, but that’s probably because the high expectations for the team led people to have such high expectations for him,” Gretzky said. “People started thinking he should get 90 goals. Lucky’s been a little off here and there, but he’s still going to get 60 goals. He’s been killing penalties well. He would be the least of my concerns. He wants to win and he’s working hard. . . .

“Bernie’s game has changed. He’s holding onto the puck less, using the give-and-go more. He’s been good for the hockey team. I think it will be a good line. I just need to get it going.”

Then he jumped to the defense of the Kings’ goalies, saying that if he were one of them, he’d be pretty upset with the rest of the team right now.

“I think our goaltending has been outstanding,” Gretzky said. “So much so that I think we’ve been leaning on them too much . . . In my opinion, Glenn Healy is exhausted right now. I hear people say he hasn’t been very good the last few games, but I think he’s been awesome. Our goalies face 35 to 40 shots every game. When do we hold the other team to 18 shots and give our goalie a break?”

Rookie Mark Fitzpatrick was in goal for the Kings Friday night. He faced 40 shots, and, as Coach Robbie Ftorek said, “made some pretty good stops.”

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Ftorek is not overly concerned about the slump--not to the point of panic. He says there are some things to be corrected.

He said that the juggling of lines was just an attempt to try some new combinations and that the Gretzky line played hard, even though the puck didn’t go in the net.

“The other lines did pretty well together,” he said.

Gretzky had been playing mostly with Mike Allison and Igor Liba, but they joined right winger Dave Taylor Friday night. Center Mike Krushelnyski was with left winger Tonelli and right winger Duguay.

And the Kings started strongly. Their 3-1 lead (on 9 shots) after the first period brought Pokey Reddick in to replace Alain Chevrier in goal for the Jets.

Duguay scored just 44 seconds into the game with a shot from the blue line that glanced off Chevrier’s glove. Thomas Steen evened the game at 1-1 at 2:08 on a power-play goal. (The Jets have the best power-play percentage in the league, 26.8% overall and 31.6% at home.)

Crossman gave the Kings the lead again at 13:24, and Tonelli made it 3-1 before the period was out.

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Fenton, whom the Kings traded to the Jets earlier this season, brought Winnipeg back within a goal at 5:10 of the second period, but the Kings went up, 4-2, with less than 2 minutes to play in the period. Steve Duchesne, sprawled on the ice in front of the Jets’ net and pushed the puck toward Reddick, and Tonelli helped it along for the score.

Fenton scored his second goal of the night in the third period to bring the Jets back within a goal, deflecting in a shot that Fredrik Olausson took from the right face-off circle.

Soon after followed a fight and pileup that included everyone on the ice except the goalies. A couple of officials were mixed into the mound, and it resulted in a power play for the Jets.

Hawerchuk scored on the resulting power play to bring on the overtime. He was in a crowd in front of Fitzpatrick, shoving the puck back toward the goal, and the puck finally glanced off a defenseman’s skate and into the net.

In the overtime, Fitzpatrick stopped two shots. The Kings didn’t even get off a shot.

Kings Notes

The Kings drew the only other sellout of the season here on Oct. 30 They will play here again Sunday. . . . The tie Friday night was just the second of the season for the Kings, who tied the Jets, 5-5, at the Forum Dec. 8.

While Detroit continues to shop Bob Probert among almost every team in the Smythe Division, playing one off the other, the suggestion has been made more than once that Detroit would like to trade him to Los Angeles for Marty McSorley. Probert is a strong player, but he has been treated at alcohol centers five times. Asked his opinion of such a suggestion, Wayne Gretzky shook his head. “I wouldn’t make that trade in a million years,” Gretzky said. “We would love to have Bobby Probert’s talent, but you can’t give up much for a guy like that because he’s unreliable. Marty has won two Stanley Cups. Marty’s a proven winner, a hard worker, he’s good in the locker room. You can’t make that trade.”

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