Hrudey's 20th Win a Shutout : Kings: Goalie has to face only 21 shots in 3-0 victory over Nordiques. He and Berthiaume have become quite a team.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hrudey and Berthiaume.

As a two-man rotation, they have become to the Kings of the '90s what Koufax and Drysdale were to the Dodgers of the '60s.

Kelly Hrudey won his 20th game Saturday night, and did it in style with a shutout, as the Kings blanked the Quebec Nordiques, 3-0, before a crowd of 15,399 at the Colisee de Quebec.

Hrudey is 20-13-5 and has allowed three goals a game. Daniel Berthiaume, who alternates with Hrudey, is 20-8-3 with a 3.05 goals-against average.

It is the first time in team history that the Kings have had a two 20-game winners in the net.

It was an important victory for the Kings (40-21-8), who needed a victory to stay on top of the Smythe Division by a point over the Calgary Flames, who also won Saturday night.

But beyond that, it was especially sweet for Hrudey, who, a year ago at this time, wasn't as concerned with making it into the winner's circle as he was with making it out onto the ice.

He spent several months battling mononucleosis. And, as the playoffs approached last March, he still didn't feel he could regain his energy or his touch.

"There's no comparison to last year," Hrudey said. "I felt very poorly. The playoffs were coming up and I was just worried about how I could contribute.

"This time, there are no such worries. I don't care who starts or who our opponent is. I have never felt better and that is no exaggeration.

"There's two reasons for that. One is my health. But the other is the team play. I'm not going to buffalo anybody and say I played great tonight. I did what I had to do. But when the team plays outstanding, that makes my job easier."

Hrudey had to face only 21 shots in winning for the sixth time in his past seven decisions and ninth in his past 11.

It was the Kings' second shutout this season, Berthiaume getting the other one against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Kings also broke a tie with the Flames for stingiest team in the division. They have allowed only 215 goals this season.

"I don't think we would have won this game a year ago," Coach Tom Webster said. "We certainly would not have gotten a shutout. But now we have the intensity and the patience to stay with it.

"Our players still have the freedom to be creative. But when the puck turns over, we have to make a commitment."

No argument from Wayne Gretzky on Saturday's defensive play.

"(The Nordiques) were patient," he said, "and put four guys on the blue line. But we were just as patient. In the past, we would have played for a six- or seven-goal game."

Gretzky assisted on two of the three goals, extending both his point-scoring and assist streak to 15 games.

The assist streak is two short of the NHL record he shares with Paul Coffey.

Gretzky leads the league in assists (102) and points (140).

Asked if he feels he is playing as well as he did the two times he collected assists in 17 consecutive games, Gretzky replied, "I think I'm playing as consistent as I ever have."

Mike Donnelly opened the scoring with his sixth goal in the first period. It was his fifth in the past six games.

The King defense held until Rob Blake (ninth goal) and Tony Granato (27th) added some third-period insurance.

Blake scored on a power play. No surprise there. That's the way he has scored eight of his nine goals.

As good a night as the Kings had, it must be tempered by the fact they were playing the Nordiques.

This is a team even Eric Lindros--its projected No. 1 draft choice--won't be able to help. Not for a while.

Quebec is 13-44-12. The Nordiques have scored a league-low 194 goals and have given up a league-high 306.

They are 1-8-2 in their past 11 at home and have won only 15 times here in the last two seasons.

The shutout was Hrudey's fourth as a King and his 10th in an eight-year NHL career that began with the New York Islanders.

"To tell you the honest truth, who cares?" Hrudey said. "If I never get another shutout for the rest of my life, I won't care. I just care about winning."

The only question now is who Webster will go with in the playoffs. Hrudey? Berthiaume? Both?

It's a problem any coach would love to have. It's a problem no King coach has ever had.

King Notes

Dave Taylor has been nominated for the Masterton Trophy by the Los Angeles chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Assn. Each team nominates a candidate with the winner to be announced this summer. The award is given for the best combination of sportsmanship and public service.

Ilkka Sinisalo made his debut with the Kings, skating on the second line with Luc Robitaille and Todd Elik. Sinisalo replaced Taylor, who was rested. Sinisalo had been obtained earlier in the week from the Minnesota North Stars for an eighth-round draft choice. He is wearing No. 9, formerly worn by Bernie Nicholls.

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