It began with Kings’ defenseman Brian Benning inadvertently redirecting the puck into the Hartford Whalers’ goal.
But it ended nearly three hours later with redemption for Benning, who directed the puck into Hartford’s goal with 1:23 left in overtime to give the Kings a 4-3 victory Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Forum.
When Hartford goalie Daryl Reaugh, pressured by the Kings’ John McIntyre, hit the puck over the glass, he was charged with an automatic delay-of-game penalty.
And, with 59 seconds remaining on the power play, Benning, shooting from the right edge of the left circle, hit a shot that Reaugh appeared to smother under his right arm. But, as the goalie fell on his back, the puck slithered loose and across the line to give the Kings their fourth win in a row and fifth in their last six games, upping their overall mark to 23-14-5.
When it was over, Whaler Coach Rick Ley protested vehemently but without success.
“It’s a terrible way to lose a game,” he said. “The call that bothers me is, how long it takes to blow the call dead. . . . he was on the puck for a good three or four seconds. How can he not blow the whistle? That’s what I don’t understand.”
Hartford falls to 18-21-4.
The Whalers’ first goal officially was scored by Jim McKenzie.
It was actually scored inadvertently by Benning. Benning was in position in front of the Kings’ net when McKenzie skated into the left corner and threw the puck into the slot.
McKenzie was looking for a Whaler, but he found something better when the puck bounced off Benning’s skate and rolled past a surprised goalie, Kelly Hrudey, into the net for McKenzie’s second goal of the season at the 10-minute mark of the period.
“I saw the puck coming,” Benning said. “I knew if I let it go, their guy was coming to the net. I tried to move it, but my feet got handcuffed. It was like it was happening in slow motion and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Hartford also got some help from the Kings on its second goal.
First, Rod Buskas was called for holding Carey Wilson. A protest from the Kings’ bench resulted in a bench minor and an ejection of Coach Tom Webster, who did everything but throw another stick before departing for the locker room with a little less than four minutes remaining in the period.
“I wasn’t happy with a couple of calls,” Webster told reporters. “I said a few words and got a bench minor. So, I kindly asked him (referee Bill McCreary) if his helmet was squeezing his brain too tightly.”
For those seeking an ejection, that will do it every time.
Angered at the officials last month, Webster exploded and threw a stick out onto the ice.
Tuesday’s bench minor put the Kings at a two-man disadvantage, but only for 19 seconds. Then, a penalty against the Whalers’ Pat Verbeek cut down the odds.
But, with just seven seconds remaining in a four-on-three power play, Hartford, 18th in the league in power-play efficiency coming in, scored on a shot by Wilson from the left circle.
The goal, Wilson’s sixth, came at 18:10, upping the Whalers’ advantage to 2-0.
The Kings cut that in half in the second period with McIntyre scoring his fourth goal at the 3:15 mark.
The Kings got even on their sixth power play of the night after failing on the previous five, Luc Robitaille scoring his 22nd of the season at the 8:40 mark of the second period.
The Kings took the lead with help from an unexpected source when Marty McSorley scored his first goal of the season from the right circle at 10:43.
But the Whalers came right back at 14:06 to deadlock it again on Brad Shaw’s second goal of the season.
And that was it until Benning settled it with his fourth of the season.
“I was happy to say the least,” Benning said. “It was tit for tat. I got one both ways tonight.”
It was the kind of trade-off the Kings will take any time.
After missing 10 games with a strained rib cartilage, wing Tony Granato has been cleared to return Thursday. “The pain’s all gone,” said Granato, who was having trouble breathing when he first got hurt. “I haven’t hit anybody yet or played under game conditions. But I’ve pushed hard in practice and there have been no setbacks.” . . . Center Steve Kasper, out three games with a ruptured sinus cavity, is still seven to 10 days away from returning. . . . Wing Brad Jones is out with a shoulder injury. . . . Hartford right wing Kevin Dineen is due to be released from a Hartford hospital today, but is not expected to play until after the Jan. 19 All-Star Game. Dineen has suffered from Crohn’s Disease, a digestive disorder, for several years, but it flared up recently. An inability to eat caused him to lose nearly 10 pounds and left him fatigued after 20 seconds on the ice. He was hospitalized Jan. 2 and fed intravenously. He has missed seven games.