To King goaltender Daniel Berthiaume, beating the Minnesota North Stars, 4-2, on their home ice didn’t settle any old scores or ease any grudges. Berthiaume played only five games for the North Stars before they traded him to the Kings in September, but he had no hard feelings.
The only thing Berthiaume felt angry about was the Kings’ record over the past few weeks. Monday night, he proceeded to do something about it, stopping 33 of 35 shots by his former teammates and giving the slow-starting Kings a chance to end their three-game losing streak. Berthiaume gave up the game’s first goal at 5 minutes 18 seconds of the first period, then he shut out the North Stars for 53:50 before allowing a meaningless goal after the Kings scored four in a row to put the game away.
A season-high 12,015, many of whom waited outside Met Center in near-zero temperatures to see Wayne Gretzky arrive, honked the party horns they were given and created more noise than the North Stars have heard all season. But it went to waste.
“It was a nice way to end the old year, thank goodness,” King Coach Tom Webster said. “We had a hard time getting going. They were coming at us with everything. It was a situation where the goaltender has to come up big, and that’s what Danny did. He gave us a chance to get back in the game and start this road trip on a good note.”
Webster showed admirable restraint in the first 10 minutes of the game, when the Kings gave him plenty of reason to unload. The North Stars blitzed Berthiaume with four close-range shots in the first 50 seconds and outshot the Kings, 7-0, in the first three minutes. Even Minnesota’s weak penalty killers, who are last in the NHL, picked on them. On the Kings’ first power play, the North Stars swatted the puck out of their zone four times and finished it off with a breakaway.
The North Stars took a 1-0 lead when Dave Gagner tucked the puck under Berthiaume on a power play. While the Kings were being outshot, 18-7, Berthiaume bought them time.
“We didn’t skate this morning, and you could tell,” said Berthiaume, who won his first game since beating Edmonton on Dec. 15 and is 11-5 for the season. “We were hesitant at the beginning. They took the first seven shots, but I was able to keep the score, 0-0, and that certainly helped the team get back into the game.”
Which the Kings did with a vengeance. At 16:03, Jay Miller threaded a shot through Neal Broten and Stewart Gavin, who stood at the goalposts and never saw Gretzky pass to Miller in front of the net on a power play. Miller slipped the puck past Jon Casey and into the right corner of the net, and the game was tied, 1-1.
The Kings got a fortunate bounce in the second period that allowed them to take the lead at 8:12. Tomas Sandstrom flung the puck from the left circle toward Bob Kudelski in front of the goal. The puck careened off Gagner’s shin pad, threading between Casey’s legs to put the Kings ahead, 2-1.
Kudelski and Brad Jones scored in the third period, though the North Stars weren’t likely to come back anyway. In 19 games in which Minnesota has trailed after two periods, its record is 0-16-3.
“I don’t know what happened in the second period,” said North Star wing Brian Propp. “We really took it to the hole in the first, then we had trouble getting it out of our end. (Berthiaume) made some good saves, but you have to keep plugging away. We never got any flow going.”
The Kings, 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, move on to New York to face the Rangers in the second game of a five-game road trip. While the Kings talked about how important it was to get a good start, Berthiaume talked about another type of satisfaction.
“I don’t have bad feelings for Minnesota,” he said. “But it’s always nice to beat the team that traded you. I didn’t get a chance to prove anything (in Minnesota). I’m just happy to be getting a chance now.”
Rob Blake, who leads NHL rookie defensemen in scoring, was scratched last night for the first time this season. Other King scratches were Brian Benning, Rick Hayward and the injured Tony Granato and Scott Bjugstad. . . . Jay Miller’s first-period goal was a good omen. The Kings are 6-1-1 in games in which Miller has scored. . . . Tomas Sandstrom’s second-period goal gave him 33 points this season. That ties the total number of points he scored in his 28 games with the Kings last season. . . . Dave Taylor’s six-game scoring streak ended. Taylor had five goals and three assists in the two-week streak. . . . Wayne Gretzky still needs one goal to reach 700 for his NHL career. He had two assists against the North Stars.