Millen, Gretzky Strike Oil

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two years ago, he figured a knee injury had ended his career.

A little less than two weeks ago, he was playing for Binghamton, a New York Ranger farm club.

But in only 10 days, Corey Millen has resurrected his career and, perhaps, the fortunes of the Kings.

Now center of the team's third line after coming to the Kings in a trade for Randy Gilhen, Millen supplied a key goal and an assist Thursday night as the Kings beat the Edmonton Oilers, 5-3, before a sellout Forum crowd of 16,005.

With renowned brawler Wayne Gretzky providing the muscle, and his teammates the scoring touch, the Kings (15-16-7) vaulted past Edmonton (15-19-6) into fourth place in the Smythe Division.

Gretzky finally struck back at his old nemesis, Esa Tikkanen, his perennial shadow when these teams meet.

Gretzky twice checked Tikkanen hard in the first period, once from behind, sending the Oiler wing face first into the back of his own net. And Gretzky later checked Tikkanen roughly into the boards.

That excited the crowd and seemed to inspire the Kings, who took advantage of some poor play by the Oilers and some spotty goaltending by Bill Ranford to end a two-game losing streak.

"I didn't really hit him that hard," Gretzky said of the blows to Tikkanen. "It just sounded that way. The hits are still about 18-1 in his favor over the last four years."

Gretzky was more eager to talk about the 5-foot-7, 168-pound Millen.

"He takes a lot of pressure off everybody," Gretzky said. "And obviously myself."

The game was still tight in the second period, Joe Murphy's 15th goal of the season being the only scoring in the first 20 minutes.

But Ranford then experienced a nightmare second period, allowing the Kings to surge in front.

Ranford lost his stick on the Kings' first goal, Mike Donnelly putting the puck past him for his 17th goal.

Eighteen seconds later, Ranford lost the puck, allowing the Kings to score their second goal. Going behind the net to clear the puck, Ranford instead lost it to Jim Thomson, who fed John McIntyre for McIntyre's second goal of the season.

Dave Taylor (his fifth goal) and Luc Robitaille (19th) continued the barrage.

Although Edmonton's Vincent Damphousse countered with his team-high 20th goal, the Kings emerged from the period with a 21-6 edge in shots for the 20 minutes along with a 4-2 lead.

In the third period, Millen's second goal as a King and third overall gave his new team some breathing room.

Murphy's second goal of the night did nothing more than make it a little closer as the Kings went on to outshoot Edmonton, 44-27, in increasing their season edge over the Oilers to 3-0-2.

"When I had that knee injury," Millen said, "they (the Rangers) got down on me and wrote me off. This (the trade) is a new life for me."

Now can he give new life to the struggling Kings?

King Notes

Center Wayne Gretzky and wing Luc Robitaille were among those named Thursday as the NHL announced the starting lineups for its 43rd All-Star game Jan. 18 in Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Wales Conference squad with four starters, center Mario Lemieux, wings Kevin Stevens and Jaromir Jagr, and defenseman Paul Coffey. The other Wales starters will be defenseman Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins and goalie Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens. Other Campbell Conference starters will be wing Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues, defensemen Al MacInnis of the Calgary Flames and Chris Chelios of the Chicago Blackhawks, with fellow Blackhawk Ed Belfour in goal. . . . The leading vote-getter in balloting by the fans was Hull with 339,706 votes. Lemieux (240,141) and Gretzky (219,257) led all centers. Robitaille, with 163,000 votes, was second among Campbell wingers. . . . Other Kings receiving votes included Tony Granato (60,302), eighth among Campbell wings, and Tomas Sandstrom (29,119), who was 16th, Kelly Hrudey (50,118), eighth among Campbell goalies, and Rob Blake (63,270), eighth among defensemen.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
65°