Kings Put a 5-4 Win on Gretzky’s Line
Wayne Gretzky’s line had a banner day, getting four of the Kings’ five goals in a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs before a sellout crowd Monday afternoon in the Forum.
Gretzky scored two goals and had an assist, and Mike Allison and Mike Krushelnyski each had a goal and two assists.
Almost as exciting for King fans is being able to recognize Gretzky’s line.
After a season of playing musical lines, of often mixing and matching lines in the course of games, King Coach Robbie Ftorek seems to have settled on combinations that have stood for the last couple of weeks.
Bryan Maxwell of the Kings’ coaching staff met with reporters after the game and acknowledged that the Gretzky-Krushelnyski-Allison combination is working well. As is keeping the lines intact.
“They’ve been together the last four, maybe five nights in a row,” Maxwell said. “We’re very happy with that line. Because of injuries we haven’t been able to go with the same lines as much as we would like. We’d like to get some lines together that could get to know each other.”
Gretzky and Krushelnyski know each other well enough from playing together at Edmonton. And Allison seemed familiar enough with the Great One Monday as, twice, they ganged up on Maple Leaf goalie Allan Bester.
When Toronto defenseman Chris Kotsopoulos fell down, Allison got the loose puck and raced up the left side toward the Toronto goal. Gretzky went with him on the right side of a two-on-one break, and it was Gretzky who scored, giving the Kings their first lead, 3-2, at 7:49 of the second period.
In the third period, they did it again. When Toronto defenseman Borje Salming fell down, Allison picked up the loose puck and took off again, and this time it was just he and Gretzky against Bester. Allison passed to Gretzky, who sent it back just as Allison was passing through the left faceoff circle. But Allison waited until Bester jumped over to face him and he passed to Gretzky--who gave the Kings a 5-3 lead.
“I almost shot it, but then I thought about all the times he’s given me those chances and I’ve blown it, so I decided to give it back to him and let him blow it himself if he wanted to,” Allison said.
That’s Allison humor. And it sounds more humble than congratulating himself on waiting until just the right moment, long enough to be sure that the goalie had commited himself but not so long that Gretzky would pass the post before shooting.
Of Gretzky, Allison said: “He’s fantastic, he really is . . . I just hope my lucky stars will come in and I’ll get to keep playing with him. The coaches wanted to give everyone an opportunity to play with Wayne, because it gives us all some confidence. So they mixed us around. But I’d be happy to stay with him.”
The Gretzky-Krushelnyski-Allison combination had to be broken up Saturday night because Allison was sitting out a suspension for a high-sticking foul. But as soon as Allison was eligible to return, he found himself on the same line.
“I felt like the coaches were showing a lot of confidence in me to put me right back on the line that I had been with before,” Allison said.
Gretzky was glad to see that, too. “Everybody likes having the lines together,” he said. “I think it makes it easier on everybody. Mike (Krushelnyski) and I played together a lot before, and I feel very comfortable with Allison. I think we play pretty together.
“Mike Allison has really played well for us this year.”
Allison scored the Kings’ first goal Monday, tying the score, 1-1, on a power play goal after Tom Fergus had scored on a power play for Toronto.
Todd Gill put the Maple Leafs ahead, 2-1, before Krushelnyski’s power play goal evened it again before the end of the second period.
In explaining how both he and Salming managed to fall down and give the Kings’ breakaway goals, Kotsopoulos said: “Two phantoms took our feet out.” He added that both of them hit the “exact same bad spot on the ice.”
Dave Taylor’s goal at 12:01 of the second period gave the Kings a 4-2 lead. But the Kings just couldn’t break the game open. Mark Osborne put the Maple Leafs within a goal at 18:35.
Gretzky’s second goal gave the Kings a 5-3 lead at 9:17 of the third period, and that lead held up until after the Maple Leafs pulled their goalie at 19:18 for an extra attacker. Vincent Damphousse scored at 19:24.
“It got very interesting there at the end,” Maxwell said. “More so than we had hoped. But we ended up getting away with the win.”
The Kings (32-23-5) are five points ahead of Edmonton in the battle for second place in the Smythe Division and home advantage for the playoffs.
King goalie Glenn Healy, who recorded his 25th victory Monday, figured the crowd liked the ending. “The fans like those heart-stoppers,” he said. “For myself, I’d prefer a shutout. These games are giving me gray hair. But we won it.”
Healy has started the last seven games for the Kings. He has started every game since rookie Mark Fitzpatrick asked to be sent back to New Haven.
Asked if playing every game was starting to wear on him, Healy said: “I like to play. I like the challenge. With the team playing better defense, it’s not so hard on me. I’m not having to stop 40 shots a game.
“If I’m there physically and mentally, I don’t mind playing a lot. It’s not bothering. My cheeks are still rosy. I don’t feel worn out.”
The Kings have also solidified two other lines: Bernie Nicholls, Luc Robitaille and John Tonelli; and Dave Taylor, Steve Kasper and Igor Liba. . . . The sellout Monday afternoon was the Kings’ first sellout for a day game that was not a playoff game. The Kings have sold out 11 of their last 13 games. . . . Ken Hammond, a former King, played his first game for the Maple Leafs Monday. . . . Ron Duguay, who came back from a head injury to play at Boston Feb. 9 (wearing a helmet), had not played until Monday because of back spasms. He made his comeback without a helmet. . . . Wayne Gretzky has 1,803 points and needs 48 to pass Gordie Howe as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer. Howe set the record at 1,850 in 26 years. Gretzky is in his 10th season. . . . Bernie Nicholls needs two goals to tie Marcel Dionne’s club record of 59 goals in a season set during the 1978-79 season. . . . The Kings will play the last game of this home stand Wednesday against Washington before leaving for five games on the road.