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Berthiaume Puts a Stop to the Kings’ Losing Streak : Hockey: Goaltender helps end three-game skid by making 34 saves in a 5-1 victory over Canucks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He came to the team in a trade.

He has gone on to become a key fixture on the club.

And today is his birthday.

Can you name this King?

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Did you say Wayne Gretzky?

Most people would.

And yes, Gretzky turns 30 today.

But lost in all the celebrating is the fact that goalie Daniel Berthiaume turns 25 today.

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That figures.

Often lost in all the headlines over bigger-name King players, Berthiaume has turned into one of the NHL’s most consistent goalies, helping to turn the Kings into a much better defensive club.

He was at it again Friday night, stopping 34 shots as the Kings ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before a sellout crowd of 16,123 at the Pacific Coliseum.

That boosted Berthiaume to 16-6 and 6-1 in his last seven games.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when Berthiaume was traded by the Winnipeg Jets for feuding with the fans and traded to the Kings by Minnesota on the eve of training camp after a knee injury allowed him to appear in only five games with the North Stars.

He was projected as a backup to starter Kelly Hrudey. Instead, Berthiaume and Hrudey are sharing the job.

“They didn’t know what to expect,” Berthiaume said of his first days as a King. “Once the season went along, they could see two guys could play.”

But was it tough to maintain confidence after being traded twice in less than a year?

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“I could have been traded 10 times and it would have been worth it to come here,” Berthiaume said. “We are treated like kings here.”

No pun intended.

With the victory, those Kings, 27-17-5, increased their Smythe Division lead to four points over the idle Calgary Flames.

Vancouver fell to 19-27-4 and 2-10-1 over its last 13.

An old face with a new look returned to get the Kings going Friday.

Center Steve Kasper, out since Jan. 2 with a ruptured sinus cavity and a fracture around an eye socket, was concerned about the limits on his vision because he is being required to wear a mask for protection.

But Kasper had no trouble seeing Jay Miller in his first period back on the ice. Kasper got the puck to Miller in the right circle, enabling Miller to score his seventh goal of the season from there. That gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 3:38 into the opening period.

Rob Murphy’s third goal got the Canucks even at the 13:47 mark of the period.

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The Kings moved into the lead near the close of the second period. Steve Duchesne scored with only seven seconds left on a power play and 12 seconds remaining in the period.

He added his second goal of the night and 13th of the season in the final period. Also scoring in the last 20 minutes were Gretzky, for his club-leading 29th goal, and Luc Robitaille, his 25th.

Tied for last in the Smythe, Vancouver has a myriad of problems. But one of its most pressing of late has been a powerless power play. The club had been blanked on 19 in a row before making three against the Edmonton Oilers in its last game.

But the Kings pulled the plug on the Canucks again Friday, shutting them out on seven power-play opportunities.

Yet another cause for celebration for a certain birthday boy.

King Notes

Reacting to a wire story that the Kings have expressed an interest in obtaining forward Jari Kurri’s rights from the Edmonton Oilers, King General Manager Rogie Vachon insisted the subject didn’t come up when he saw Edmonton General Manager Glen Sather earlier this week. Kurri is currently playing in Europe, but Edmonton retains his rights. “I’d be surprised if anything happens before the summer,” Vachon said, going on to explain that Kurri would have to go through the waiver process if the Oilers attempted to move him now. After this season, Kurri would be a free agent, but the Oilers would receive compensation if he signed with another NHL club.

Vancouver General Manager Pat Quinn made his fourth trade in 11 days Tuesday, acquiring defenseman Brian Blad from the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Todd Hawkins. In three of the deals, Vancouver has received a defenseman. The Canucks got Tom Kurvers from Toronto for Brian Bradley on Jan. 12 and Gerald Diduck from the Montreal Canadiens for a draft choice the same day. Playing for the Maple Leafs’ minor-league club, the 6-foot, 202-pound Blad did not have a point in 28 games, but had accumulated 100 penalty minutes.

King defenseman Tim Watters, out for five games with a twisted knee, has rejoined the club. He has needed a little extra time to get used to a brace for the knee, but should be ready to play tonight.


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