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Kings Lose to Flames in Name Only

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wayne Gretzky stayed home, as did Tomas Sandstrom, Tony Granato, Dave Taylor and Larry Robinson.

Kelly Hrudey and Rob Blake stayed on the bench.

Coach Tom Webster, honoring the terms of his suspension, stayed in the press box.

With the Smythe Division title already securely in the Kings’ hands, Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Olympic Saddledome, the regular-season finale for both clubs, was played for pride, for playoff preparation, but mostly because the schedule called for it.

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For the record, the Flames scored the last four goals after the Kings, led by assistant coaches Rick Wilson and Cap Raeder, had taken a 3-1 first-period lead.

But neither side was placing any great significance on the outcome. Calgary scratched leading scorer Theoren Fleury, leading defenseman Al MacInnis and star center Joe Nieuwendyk, along with Ric Nattress, Joel Otto, Carey Wilson and Jamie Macoun.

The game still drew a sellout crowd of 20,132.

“We wanted to win,” King defenseman Steve Duchesne said, “but the game didn’t mean anything. We were playing without those guys (the seven, plus the coach, who watched from near and far) and they are our heart. In the playoffs, it will be different.”

The overriding concern on both sides, with the postseason beginning Thursday, was to avoid injuries.

“You think about it before the game,” Duchesne said, “that it would be bad to be hurt for the playoffs. But once you go out there to play, you play hard. If you play soft, you probably will get hurt.”

The game meant a rare start for King goalie Daniel Berthiaume, who has been relegated to a backup role. Berthiaume’s last start came on March 20 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he was pulled in the second period of that one with the Kings trailing, 3-1, in a game that would wind up tied, 4-4.

Berthiaume couldn’t hold back the makeshift team the Flames’ put on the ice Sunday and wasn’t too happy about it afterwards.

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“I felt a little rusty out there,” he said. “My legs were worn. My confidence is not there right now. I’m struggling. I think too much instead of just playing the game.”

With Fleury sitting out, Marty McSorley picked up one point in the plus/minus category to end up at plus-48, finishing in a tie with Fleury for the league lead.

“The team got 102 points,” McSorley said. “I played on a good team. I didn’t have that many points so somebody must have been doing the scoring. I was minus a whole (bunch) when I was in Pittsburgh on a bad team.”

The Kings got the early lead on Todd Elik’s 21st goal and Luc Robitaille’s 45th, a goal that enabled Robitaille to tie Sandstrom for the team lead.

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After Calgary’s Sergei Makarov scored the first of his two goals, Mike Donnelly’s seventh of the season gave the Kings their biggest lead.

Calgary came back on goals by Paul Ranheim (14th), Doug Gilmour (20th), Makarov again (to finish the season with 30) and Paul Fenton (14th).

Makarov scored on a power play 3:43 into the final period. Fenton’s at 9:56 came after Tim Hunter was penalized five minutes for fighting with Jay Miller. Instead of using the opportunity to catch Calgary, the Kings surrendered a short-handed goal to Fenton and weren’t heard from again.

They plan to be heard from starting Thursday.

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King Notes

The Kings’ opening two playoff games in the best-of-seven series against the Vancouver Canucks will be played at the Forum Thursday and Saturday. Games 3 and 4 will be in Vancouver April 8 and 10. If necessary, Game 5 will be at the Forum April 12, Game 6 in Vancouver April 14 and Game 7 at the Forum April 16. . . . Calgary will play the Edmonton Oilers, with the next round beginning April 18. . . . The Kings finished the regular season 46-24-10 for 102 points, Calgary 46-26-8 for 100 points. . . . The Kings flew home Sunday night and will leave this afternoon for Lake Arrowhead, where they will prepare for the Canucks until Wednesday. . . . Sign of the times: Coach Tom Webster, serving a suspension for his fight with Calgary’s Doug Gilmour last week, was amused by the Flames’ mascot, Harvey the Hound, who appeared behind the Kings’ bench wearing boxing gloves and a sign that read: “Tom Webster, can we talk?”


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