Kings Squander 4-1 Lead and Lose : Duchesne's Hat Trick Not Enough as Blues Win, 6-4

Times Staff Writer

Against teams from outside the woeful Norris Division, the St. Louis Blues are among the worst teams in the National Hockey League.

But you couldn't tell it by their play against the Kings, who squandered a three-goal second-period lead in a 6-4 loss to the Blues Thursday night before a crowd of 17,195 at the St. Louis Arena.

In losing for the second time to the Blues, whose 11-25-6 record against nondivisional opponents is among the NHL's worst, the Kings wasted a three-goal game by Steve Duchesne, whose hat trick was the first of his career and gave him 23 goals for the season, a club record for defensemen. The old mark of 22 was set by Larry Murphy during the 1981-82 season.

The Blues scored the tying and winning goals on long slap shots by Sergio Momesso and Gino Cavallini.

"The tying goal just beat me," goaltender Kelly Hrudey said of Momesso's blistering 40-foot shot from beyond the top of the slot, which sailed over Hrudey's stick at 7 minutes 56 seconds of the third period.

"I lost it somewhere. I don't know how. I figured that would be one of the few I would give up like that. I don't give up many like that."

Only 5:59 later, though, he gave up another.

Cavallini beat him with a 70-foot shot from beyond the blue line.

"The fifth goal, when he shot it, was rolling like crazy and I just couldn't get an angle on it," Hrudey said. "I just didn't know where it was going. It was just rolling and skipping and bouncing.

"It was going toward my right leg and I could see it curling in. I just tried to get my legs closed and get my stick on it."

Hrudey, who is 1-2-1 with the Kings, did manage to get his stick on it, but the puck caromed through his open legs and into the net.

Peter Zezel added an insurance goal with 1:34 left and the Blues, who ended a club-record seven-game losing streak Monday night with a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, had won two straight.

And the Kings continued a slide that seemed to have ended Wednesday night, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres to end a four-game winless streak. They have won only six of 21 games since Jan. 14, are 3-8-4 on the road since Dec. 23 and ended this trip with a 1-3-1 record.

They came out fast, scoring three goals in 31 seconds to break a 16-year club record. Two of the goals were by Duchesne, and Wayne Gretzky got the other, his 48th. Duchesne got one more to complete his hat trick with two seconds left in the period.

But then, in the second period, the Kings were limited to two shots, equaling a season low, and their lead was cut to 4-3.

Coach Robbie Ftorek blamed "a touch of complacency," but said fatigue may have also played a role in the Kings' downfall. The Kings played their fourth game in five nights and fifth in seven nights on this transcontinental journey.

The Blues, he said, won a majority of face-offs in the last two periods.

"And when you're chasing the puck, you can't dictate the pace of the game," Ftorek said. "You're chasing instead of having them chase you. And when you're not as fresh as the other team, you can't afford to be chasing them around the ice."

At least one goal, though, seemed to be the result of a lack of effort by Duchesne.

As Cavallini carried the puck across the blue line into the Kings' zone late in the second period, Dave Taylor of the Kings caught up to him and made a nice play, spinning him around and seemingly taking him out of the play.

Cavallini, though, managed to send a pass to the charging Momesso, who streaked past Duchesne and re-directed the pass into the net, cutting the Blues' deficit to 4-3 and giving them new life.

Duchesne seemed to relax as Taylor spun Cavallini.

"We know St. Louis goes to the net all the time," Ftorek said. "They shoot and crash. We have to have the effort all the way through. It's tough to come back and pick up people. But that's what you have to do. If you relax on it, it creates an opportunity and they score."

King Notes

Before Thursday night, the Blues were 0-23-4 in games in which they trailed after two periods. . . . Bernie Nicholls, who leads the Kings with 57 goals, has not scored in seven games. . . . Kelly Hrudey, on his first week with the Kings: "Other than a couple of goals tonight, I'm surprised by how well things have been going. It takes a lot to get used to this travel schedule. Once the other team gets momentum, it's hard to turn it around when you've been jetting around North America."

Ralph Backstrom, Mike Corrigan and Bob Berry scored goals in a 45-second span of the second period against the New York Islanders on Nov. 4, 1972, establishing a King record that lasted almost 17 years. . . . Wrote columnist Larry Felser of the Buffalo News, amused by Coach Robbie Ftorek's use of Wayne Gretzky Wednesday night in a line with enforcers Jay Miller and Marty McSorley: "That's like making a movie about a love triangle and casting Kathleen Turner opposite Don Knotts and George Wendt."

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