Gretzky-Kurri-Robitaille Line Sharp Again : Hockey: It produces four goals in 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs. L.A. is unbeaten in its last five games.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a line born of desperation.

With his team trailing the Hartford Whalers, 4-1, in the second period Wednesday, King Coach Tom Webster decided to shake up his top line, teaming center Wayne Gretzky with left wing Luc Robitaille and right wing Jari Kurri.

The Kings came back to score three consecutive goals and earn a tie against Hartford.

The Gretzky-Kurri-Robitaille line continued to produce Saturday, combining for four goals as the Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2, and move into first place tie with the Vancouver Canucks in the Smythe Division.

Gretzky scored two goals and assisted on two others, Robitaille had two power-play goals and one assist and Kurri had two assists as the Kings extended their unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) before a sellout crowd of 15,842 at the Maple Leaf Gardens.

Why does the Gretzky-Kurri-Robitaille line work so well?

"If I was smart enough to know, I would have put them together sooner," Webster said. "Unfortunately, I was trying to spread things out. But I decided to make a change in the Hartford game, and it clicked really well.

"I'm going to leave it together for a while, until maybe I bang my head."

The leading scorer in the NHL with 10 goals and 15 assists in 14 games, Robitaille has four goals and five assists in three games since teaming with Gretzky and Kurri. Gretzky has four goals and four assists, and Kurri has four assists while playing with Robitaille and Gretzky.

"They're pretty good hockey players, and it obviously makes the game a lot easier playing with people like that," Gretzky said. "There's no real secret to it. We're just jumping into the holes and letting the puck do all the work."

Robitaille, who extended his scoring streak to 10 games, the third-longest in the NHL this season, said it is a joy to play with Gretzky and Kurri.

"Playing with Wayne, all you have to do is get open and the puck will come," Robitaille said. "As much as everybody says that Jari is a great shooter, he's an unbelievable passer. All you have to do is get open, and that's what we're doing."

After leaving the team for five games because of his father's illness, Gretzky has four goals in four games and the Kings are 3-0-1 after going 3-2 during his absence.

Playing without Gretzky, the Kings lost the first two games of a seven-game two-week Eastern trip by total scores of 12-4. However, they went 4-0-1 on the rest of the trip.

"I think what everybody is real proud of is that we showed the character that we had on this team," said King goalie Kelly Hrudey, who made 30 saves against Toronto.

"It's pretty tough to lose as badly as we did in the first two games of this trip and go out there with your head up. But we finished this road trip off with a bang."

Averaging three goals, the Maple Leafs scored two in the first 4:45. Center Mike Bullard scored a power-play goal at 2:29 and center Peter Zezil added his fourth goal of the season.

But the Kings, who have outscored their last five opponents by 13-2 in the third period, had little trouble coming back. They scored five consecutive goals, four in the third period.

Robitaille cut the deficit to 2-1 when he scored his ninth goal of the season. Taking a pass from Gretzky, Robitaille put a shot from the base of the right circle through the legs of goalie Grant Fuhr at 8:58 of the second period.

Gretzky made the score 2-2 when he scored on a pass from defenseman Charlie Huddy at 1:13 of the third period. The Kings took the lead less than a minute later as right wing Dave Taylor scored his second goal of the season on a shot that went into the net off the stick of defenseman Todd Gill at 2:04 of the third period.

Robitaille got his second goal of the game at 8:12 of the third period on a pass from Kurri, and Gretzky beat Fuhr on a breakaway with 1:15 remaining.

King Notes

King center Wayne Gretzky said he visited his ailing father, Walter, at a hospital in nearby Hamilton, Canada, while the team was here. Although the Kings don't play again until Thursday, when they face Vancouver at the Forum, Gretzky didn't stay here to be with his family, returning to Los Angeles on the team plane. "I haven't seen my own kids in 19 days," Gretzky said. "There's not really much I can do (for his father) right now, so I'm going to go home."

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