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Kings, Gretzky Get Ties : Hockey: Player catches Dionne for No. 2 in goals, but L.A. can’t hold a 4-2 lead in last five minutes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There’s still some life left in Wayne Gretzky.

After getting off to the worst start of his storied career, Gretzky continued a personal hot streak with two assists and the goal that enabled him to tie former King Marcel Dionne for second place on the NHL’s all-time list Saturday in the Kings’ 4-4 tie with the Vancouver Canucks.

Although blowing a two-goal lead at the Forum with a little more than four minutes to play, the Kings also are showing some signs of life after sinking to fourth place in the Smythe Division with a dismal six-game winless streak that left owner Bruce McNall on the verge of resigning the team presidency. Saturday’s tie gives the Kings three points in their last two games, played against the top two teams in the division.

Gretzky, who was recently quoted as saying he was ready to call it quits earlier this season, is backing down from that statement.

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“I didn’t really say I’d retire,” he said. “I just thought I couldn’t be this bad. I don’t enjoy mediocrity. I don’t enjoy not earning my money with what I’m being paid. It’s a bad feeling. I was questioning my ability.”

Gretzky injured his back in the Canada Cup before the season began. Once he started to bounce back from that, his father, Walter suffered an aneurysm on the brain.

But in the last nine games, he has started to look like the Gretzky of old with 21 points.

Gretzky’s 13th goal, scored from the middle of the slot in the second period, gives him 731 in his career, tying him with Dionne, who was in attendance, behind all-time leader Gordie Howe (801).

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“It meant a lot to me,” Gretzky said of the goal that tied Dionne, “but it would have meant a lot more if we’d gotten a win out of it. All in all, I don’t think we played bad.”

The Kings, although blunting their recent defensive surge by giving two late goals, still had a shot at victory with three seconds remaining in the overtime, but Jari Kurri, rushing the net with the puck on his stick, suddenly peeled off.

“I think it (the puck) stuck on him,” Gretzky said. “The ice at that point is not very good. It got caught at his feet and he couldn’t get a shot off.”

The tie leaves the Kings 12-12-7 and the Canucks still at the top of the division at 18-11-4.

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Before a sellout crowd of 16,005, the Kings took the first-period lead on Tony Granato’s 16th goal.

Trevor Linden’s 14th goal tied the game at the 15:34 mark of the second period.

Gretzky came back with his historic goal 42 seconds later, only to have Geoff Courtnall answer 55 seconds later with his team-high 15th goal to again deadlock the score.

Bob Kudelski’s 12th goal and Mike Donnelly’s 14th gave the Kings a 4-2 final-period lead.

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But the Canucks tied it again in a span of 41 seconds. Greg Adams got his 14th at 15:50 and Cliff Ronning followed with his 11th to tie the game 4-4. Vancouver scored twice in that third period despite getting only six shots.

King Notes

Darryl Sydor is gone. The Kings’ rookie defenseman has been given a leave of absence to join the Canadian junior national team for the junior world championships upcoming in Munich, Germany. If the Canadians are successful in the tournament, Sydor could be gone until early January. . . . King defenseman Brent Thompson, called up for last week’s exhibition against Team USA, and goalie David Goverde, called up when Daniel Berthiaume was injured, have both been returned to the Kings’ Phoenix Roadrunner farm club. Wing Sean Whyte, also called up for the Team USA game, remains with the big club.


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