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Kings Are Headliners for a Night : Hockey: A hot tarp accidentally drops on the rink at Caesars Palace, but the show goes on as L.A. beats Rangers, 5-2.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the 75 years of the NHL, there perhaps never has been a stranger sight. The sport that was born on the frozen ponds and lakes of the North came to the desert Friday night in spectacular fashion.

With the temperature 85 degrees and the glittering gambling palaces of the Vegas Strip in the background, with a shirt-sleeve crowd of 13,007 on hand, the Kings scored a 5-2 exhibition victory over the New York Rangers in the Caesars Palace parking lot on a $135,000 portable rink.

Long after the result is forgotten, this game’s setting will remain imprinted in the minds of those in attendance.

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Some skeptics scoffed at the idea that ice could be brought to the desert to pull this game off.

And, less than eight hours before the opening faceoff, there were still skeptics. That’s understandable, considering that three years of planning for this game were endangered by poor handling of the protective tarp that hung over the rink all week long.

When that tarp was cut down Friday at noon, it was allowed to fall on the ice. With the temperature of the tarp at about 110 degrees, it acted like an electric blanket, causing the ice to start melting.

It also didn’t help that the ice had been subjected to intermittent rain earlier in the day.

It took 90 minutes to raise the tarp, raising fears that irreparable damage had been done.

But some furious action by a Zamboni saved the night, allowing the game to start only about 15 minutes late.

It probably helped that the ice on the Caesars rink was two inches thick, twice the thickness of regular NHL playing surfaces.

Once the game got under way, however, there were no serious problems with the ice.

The game was also historic in that it featured the first appearance of the new Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri-Tomas Sandstrom line.

Kurri, Gretzky’s linemate for four Stanley Cups in Edmonton, was obtained by the Kings in an off-season trade. But both Kurri and Gretzky began the preseason playing in the Canada Cup.

And their opportunity to reunite on the Kings was further delayed when Gretzky was crosschecked from behind in the Canada Cup finals and sidelined for nearly two weeks with a hyper-extended back.

But Gretzky played Friday.

The Rangers took the first-period lead on goals by Tony Amonte and Doug Weight.

But in the second period, the Kings went ahead on goals by Tony Granato, Brian Benning and Sylvain Couturier. Kurri and Gretzky scored in the final period.

King Notes

Goalie Kelly Hrudey has been signed to a four-year, $2.65-million contract. Hrudey will make $575,000 this season, then $650,000, $700,000 and $725,000 in the option year. . . . The Kings have sent six players to their Phoenix Roadrunner farm club: forwards Scott Bjugstad, Brandy Semchuk, Mike Vukonich and Sean Whyte and defensemen Paul Holden and Rene Chapdelaine.

An exhibition between the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders scheduled for the Florida Suncoast Dome on Friday was canceled after workers tried unsuccessfully for a hour to make the ice playable. . . . The Kings will play the Rangers again Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., in their exhibition finale. The Kings will then return home to prepare for the start of the regular season, next Friday night in Winnipeg.


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