With 99th Playoff Goal, Gretzky Shows His Number Isn’t Up Yet : Kings: More than the statistics, Gretzky is impressing by skating like the Great One of old.


No. 99 for No. 99.

Wayne Gretzky added to his own all-time record for playoff goals Wednesday night in the Kings’ 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks by scoring the 99th of his career in his 164th postseason game.

That’s roughly the equivalent of two full seasons.

An awful lot of players go through an entire career, a decent career, regular season and postseason, without scoring 99 goals.

But there’s a much better reason for headlining Gretzky’s performance Wednesday than the mere fact that it featured another milestone in a career filled with them.


Once upon a time, the headline “Gretzky Scores” ranked right up there with “Sun Rises” and “Dog Bites Man” in terms of shock value.

But that was long ago, before a series of postseason injuries left some people whispering that perhaps the Great One would never be great again. Every season the Kings would go into the playoffs and every season Gretzky would go out with an injury.

Three years ago, a back problem hampered him.

Two years ago, it was an ear injury, suffered when then-teammate Steve Duchesne accidentally hit Gretzky with a puck.

Last season, it was a rib injury.

This season, it didn’t look as though the Kings would have to wait for the bad news to come in the postseason. It was revealed before the start of the regular season that the rib injury was actually a herniated disk that might end Gretzky’s career.

Not quite.

Gretzky returned after missing 39 games. But, in the postseason opener against the Calgary Flames, his thigh was bruised.

So what’s new?

What’s new is that Gretzky has a chance to be injury free for the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1989.


It’s not simply that he scored a goal and added two assists to help the Kings even the best-of-seven Smythe Division finals at one game apiece.

It’s how he did it.

Gretzky looked as smooth as ever in dishing a cross-ice pass to Jari Kurri for the Kings’ second goal.

Gretzky looked as sharp as ever in leading a four-on-two down the ice that resulted in the Kings’ third goal when Gretzky whipped a perfect pass to Warren Rychel, who put the puck in the net.

And Gretzky looked as strong as ever in scoring his 99th goal from near the left post off a pass from Luc Robitaille.

“This is the best hockey I’ve played in a long time,” said the 32-year-old Gretzky, “maybe since the Canada Cup in ’91 when I got hurt. It feels nice to be able to get out there and play healthy.

“The (39) games I missed may have been a blessing because I feel stronger now, and I’ve gotten stronger in each of the last four games.”


King defensemen Charlie Huddy remembers the Gretzky he played with on the Edmonton Oilers, and he saw that Gretzky again Wednesday.

“It’s the best he’s played in I don’t know how long,” Huddy said. “He had fire in his eyes. You could see it when he stepped on the ice. He took total charge out there the first couple of shifts. You could see how intense he was.”

Like the Oiler days?

“I think,” Huddy said, “he might have been even better than he was back then.”