Sandstrom Likes Hat's Fit : Kings: Gretzky sets him up for three more goals in 4-2 victory at Montreal, giving him eight in three games.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After Tomas Sandstrom had scored a hat trick Saturday night in the Kings' 4-2 victory over the Montreal Candiens, owner Bruce McNall, a wide grin on his face, asked, "Bernie who?"

A year ago, after the Kings made the controversial deal that sent Bernie Nicholls to the New York Rangers for Sandstrom and Tony Granato, there was another question on most people's lips: "Why?"

Now they know.

Wielding the hottest stick in the league, Sandstrom is using it to obliterate any lingering doubts in the minds of those who wondered why the Kings would trade a 70-goal scorer.

The idea was to get two men who could skate with Wayne Gretzky.

Perhaps the idea these days ought to be to make sure they have someone who can skate with Sandstrom .

In the last week, he has merely:

--Collected two hat tricks.

--Scored eight goals in three games.

--Gotten his 200th career goal.

Reached a season total of 17 goals to pass the Gretzky and move into second place in the league behind Brett Hull.

"You might say that he's a little hot," Coach Tom Webster said with a grin to match McNall's.

There are nothing but grins around the Kings these days.

Why not?

The club's victory, coupled with a Calgary Flames' loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, moved the Kings into a three-point lead in the Smythe Division with a 16-5-1 record.

They bounced back from their defeat at Calgary Thursday night to win for the seventh time in eight games.

Sandstrom, Gretzky and Granato have combined for 43 goals and 95 points.

For all of Sandstrom's recent clout, he wouldn't be doing nearly as well without Gretzky.

Since Gretzky came to Los Angeles in 1988, the Kings have been looking for someone he could team up with the way he did in Edmonton with Jari Kurri.

The only way Gretzky and Sandstrom could work any closer these days was if their sticks were tied together.

And sometimes it seems they are.

Gretzky was the key factor in all three of Sandstrom's goals against the Canadiens.

On the first, 5:18 into the game, Gretzky intercepted a pass from Montreal's Guy Carbonneau just above the right circle.

Gretzky skated down the slot, Sandstrom right behind him.

"I just went in there for the rebound," Sandstrom said. "I didn't know if he saw me."

He saw.

Instead of shooting, Gretzky, seemingly with eyes in the back of his head, left a perfect drop pass for Sandstrom, who drilled it home.

"You get lucky once in a while," Gretzky said.

Uh-huh.

Gretzky fed Sandstrom again on the second goal, which came at the 12:44 mark of the opening period.

Sandstrom's shot was blocked by goalie Patrick Roy, but Sandstrom picked off the rebound and flipped it over the Canadien goalie.

On Sandstrom's third goal, Gretzky got lucky, again, whipping a no-look pass from the end boards to Sandstrom in the slot.

Sandstrom took care of the rest at 2:19 of the second period.

The Kings' final goal was scored by Dave Taylor, his fourth.

Montreal's goals came off the sticks of Denis Savard (his eighth) and Donald Dufresne (his first).

The Canadiens outshot the Kings, 26-25, but King goalie Daniel Berthiaume came up with several clutch saves, much to the dismay of the Montreal Forum crowd of 17,955.

The Canadiens dropped to 11-10-3, but are still second in the Adams Division, despite a week in which 10 players were injured.

It was the Kings' second victory at Montreal since the 1978-79 season. They were 1-14-2 since.

Gretzky, with three points, moved past John Cullen of the Pittsburgh Penguins into the NHL scoring lead with 43 points.

But when playing alongside Sandstrom these days, even a Great One takes second billing.

King Notes

The scariest moment of the day for the Kings came in the morning practice when defenseman Tim Watters was accidentally knocked down by teammate Frank Breault. Hitting the ice head first, Watters was momentarily unconscious. Revived, he was taken to a nearby hospital where tests revealed no damage. Watters' only aftereffect was a headache. Scheduled to sit out anyway Saturday, Watters is expected to be available tonight in Quebec. . . . Missing for Montreal were forwards Sylvain Turgeon (stomach surgery), Benoit Brunet (knee injury), Shayne Corson (hip pointer), Mike McPhee (groin), Todd Ewen (strained knee), Ryan Walter (broken wrist) and Brent Gilchrist (broken finger).

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