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Kings Play to Their Road Look in a 6-2 Defeat by Canucks

Times Staff Writer

Maybe the Kings shouldn’t have worn those spiffy, black road uniforms Thursday night at the Forum.

The idea was to give the sellout crowd of 16,005 a look at the other color, but dressed in black, the Kings continued to play the way they played on their last trip.

Badly.

Back home Thursday night, they lost to the Vancouver Canucks, 6-2.

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And on Wayne Gretzky’s 28th birthday.

Gretzky stopped briefly on his way out of the locker room to say: “It’s disappointing. They played pretty good hockey tonight, and we didn’t play as well as we can. That’s disappointing.”

It was the first of a 5-game home stand for the Kings, who were 0-3-1 on their recent trip East. The Kings’ record went to 27-19-4, and they trail the Calgary Flames by 13 points in the Smythe Division. Vancouver is 19-25-6.

Bernie Nicholls had 1 of the Kings’ goals, but that left him 2 short in his bid to become the first King to score 50 goals in 50 games.

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“I feel worse about losing than not getting the 50th goal,” Nicholls said. “It would have been nice to get 50, but being 2 goals away is a long way. It’s farther than you might think.”

Nicholls scored his goal at 16:26 of the first period on a major power play brought on by a cross-checking penalty and a game misconduct to Harold Snepsts at 13:17.

Nicholls was right in front of the net, ready and waiting, when the rebound of a shot by Gretzky bounced his way.

It tied the game, 1-1. Canuck wing Jim Sandlak had scored the first goal of the game at 10:00, deflecting Paul Reinhart’s shot on a power play that King goalie Mark Fitzpatrick brought upon himself with a slashing penalty.

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In the second period, the Kings took the lead on Jay Miller’s first goal as a King and his third of the season. Nicholls had made the pass from the left side of the net through the crease to Luc Robitaille, who took the shot that Miller deflected past Canuck goalie Kirk McLean.

But the Canucks scored 2 quick goals to go ahead, 3-2.

They tied it at 15:26 on Barry Pederson’s slap shot from the top of the left circle on another power play. Greg Adams gave the Canucks the lead with his goal just 45 seconds later.

Tony Tanti and Rich Sutter added goals for the Canucks early in the third period, and Pederson scored the other in the final seconds.

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Vancouver Coach Bob McCammon said: “We talked about it this morning in the meeting that if we could keep L.A. close the first half of the game, we would get better chances at the end because of the rest factor. And that’s what happened. Once we got the fourth goal, it’s tough coming from behind (for the Kings).”

Tanti added: “We’ve been playing really well on defense all year. Adams’ goal was real big because if you get a good team like the Kings down, that makes the difference.”

The Kings’ frustration started to show in the final minutes.

Since coming to the Kings in a trade Sunday, Miller had neither scored nor proved his reputation true by throwing a punch. He did both Thursday night. The punches flew as he mixed it up with Sutter shortly before the end of the game.

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With just 10 seconds left, Marty McSorley picked up a 5-minute penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.

Not a pretty ending.

But Nicholls said: “It’s not panic time,” pointing out that the teams below the Kings in the Smythe Division have been losing, too. “This will be a real big game Saturday night against the Oilers. We’ve got both Edmonton and Calgary coming in.

“It’s early yet. We have 30 games to play. Players go into slumps, and right now, the team is in a slump. Maybe the big game with the Oilers is what we need.”

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That and a change in the schedule. The Kings played 4 games on the road, including one Tuesday night in Washington.

“This is the toughest schedule I’ve seen in my 8 years here,” Nicholls said. “I’m not using that as an excuse, but when things aren’t going well, you don’t want to be playing every other day and traveling.”

Things definitely are not going well.

The Kings have been outshot in 16 of their last 18 games, and the Canucks outshot them, 35-26.

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The Kings had more penalties and more penalty minutes than the Canucks. Penalty-killing used to be one of the Kings’ specialties, but Thursday night, for example, the Canucks scored 2 power play goals.

King Coach Robbie Ftorek said: “We’re taking too many penalties, first of all. But we need to work on our penalty-killing. We’ve been playing one particular way, and once you get scored on, you start to lose confidence. Then other players have been looking at us and finding our weaknesses. We’ve made some adjustments, but you need time to practice that . . .

“Tomorrow, when we get to practice, we’ll just have to regroup.”

King Notes

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Owner Bruce McNall of the Kings has been saying since late Wednesday that there is no truth to the rumor that he had offered $5 million to Edmonton owner Peter Pocklington for goalie Grant Fuhr. After the game Thursday night, McNall said: “Peter Pocklington and I speak all the time about a lot of different things. Names get floated around. But there is nothing to this.” . . . The league allows a reverse sweater night occasionally, as long as the visiting team agrees. Vancouver agreed to bring their gold “home” jerseys on this one-stop trip to Los Angeles. . . . Wayne Gretzky was wearing the captain’s “C” on his sweater during the absence of captain Dave Taylor, who is still recovering from an inflamed knee. . . . Mike Allison, who missed the last trip because of a knee injury, skated Thursday night. Ken Baumgartner, who skipped the trip while recovering from pneumonia, dressed but did not get into the game. . . . Thursday night’s game was the Kings’ 12th sellout of the season and their fifth in the last six games. . . . The Kings’ game against Edmonton Saturday night at the Forum is already sold out. . . . They will also be at home against Calgary Tuesday night, New Jersey Feb. 2 and Buffalo Feb. 4, before the All-Star break.


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