Marty McSorley scored a fluke goal with 1:23 left in overtime as the Kings beat the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, Wednesday night and clinched second place in the Smythe Division for the first time in their history.
The victory gave the Kings home ice advantage over the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings, who had never finished higher than fourth in the Smythe Division, obtained Wayne Gretzky, McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski in a trade with the Oilers last August.
It will be the fourth time in their last five playoff appearances that the Kings have faced Edmonton, and the first time they will have home ice advantage. The first two games will be played at the Forum next Wednesday and Thursday, with the series resuming April 8 and 9 at Edmonton.
It was the highest finish for the Kings since they moved from the Norris Division to the Smythe Division in 1981-82.
On the Kings’ winning goal, Steve Kasper took a 40-foot slap shot from the slot. Winnipeg goalie Pokey Reddick made a pad save and the rebound came out to McSorley at the left of the Winnipeg goal. As McSorley went past the goal line, he backhanded a pass toward Kasper, who continued toward the net. But the pass went off Winnipeg defenseman Dave Ellett’s skate and deflected between Reddick’s pads as he moved toward Kasper.
Paul Fenton, a former King, scored at 6:18 of the second period for a 1-1 tie to force overtime. Fenton was at a deep angle on the right side and his 20-foot wrist shot went off Kelly Hrudey’s left skate and in on the short side of the goal.
Reddick, who made 48 saves, then kept the Jets in the game with big saves. He made a kick save as Gretzky tried to tap in a five-footer with 4:30 left. Then, with 28 seconds left in regulation, Gretzky broke in on Reddick and dropped the puck to Kasper, who got off a 10-foot backhander that Reddick smothered.
With 2:10 left in overtime, Gretzky picked up a rebound and flipped it to Ron Duguay to the left of the Winnipeg goal. Duguay fired a backhander at Reddick, who made a sprawling save.
Gretzky netted his 54th goal of the season on an assist by Hrudey for a 1-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first period. After making a save, Hrudey passed the puck to Gretzky, who moved down the left side, cut toward the middle and drilled a 35-foot shot past Reddick.