Game 7 Victory Is a Great One : Hockey: Gretzky’s three goals power the Kings past the Maple Leafs, 5-4, and into the Stanley Cup finals against the Canadiens.


This is the night King fans have fantasized about for 26 years--an era spanning 17 coaches, five general managers, three owners and the single biggest trade in hockey history.

King owner No. 3, Bruce McNall, made it all possible when he imported Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton almost five years ago. Saturday, Gretzky ended the long drought with a performance for the ages as he almost single-handedly propelled the Kings into the Stanley Cup finals, scoring three times and adding an assist during the Kings’ 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference finals.

It was everything a Game 7 should be. The outcome was in question until the final seconds after the Maple Leafs had pulled within a goal as defenseman Dave Ellett scored at 18:53, and they virtually kept the puck in the Kings’ zone from then on.


Although the Kings couldn’t clear the zone until about five seconds remained, the Maple Leafs had problems getting a shot on goal during the wild, scrambling chaos. Finally, King defenseman Marty McSorley knocked the puck out of their zone and the Kings found themselves with a date in the Stanley Cup finals against the Canadiens, starting Tuesday in Montreal.

At the start of Game 7, Gretzky, the hometown hero, was greeted with boos from the sellout crowd of 15,720 at Maple Leaf Gardens, who now regarded him as the enemy. After his virtuoso showing, the fans could only watch him with awe, and the Maple Leaf players and their front-office executives showered him with praise along with everyone connected with the Kings’ organization.

“I’ve played 14 years, and I did not want to be remembered as the guy who didn’t play well in the semifinals versus Toronto,” Gretzky said, smiling. “This isn’t pressure. It’s fun to play in a game like this. It’s what kids dream about, playing for the Stanley Cup. It’s been five years of hard work in Los Angeles. When I was in Edmonton, it took us five years to win a Stanley Cup championship.

“So, maybe it’s our time.”

Gretzky believed that the Toronto media had written him off this week. He responded with the winning goal in overtime of Game 6 and four points during Game 7.

“The greatest player in the world beat us tonight,” Toronto General Manager Cliff Fletcher said. “What did he have? Three goals and three assists? Whatever. It was a great, great effort.”

When it was over, Gretzky skated over to the bench and hugged King Coach Barry Melrose and assistant Cap Raeder. The first thing Gretzky did when he left the ice was hug and kiss his parents, Walter and Phyllis.


Gretzky whipped himself into the proper Game 7 frame of mind by constantly thinking and talking about negative columns written about him here. He tried to calm his teammates, as well as McNall.

“I’m a basket case,” McNall said. “Wayne kept saying, ‘Relax, don’t worry about it.’ ”

Said Melrose: “He’s the greatest player to ever play this game. I told him and all the (former) Edmonton players that this is the Stanley Cup you’ll remember forever.”

Game 7 mirrored the highs and lows of the the Kings’ season. The Kings led by 2-0 after one period on goals by Gretzky and Tomas Sandstrom, but the Maple Leafs tied the score at the 7:36 mark of the second period when Wendel Clark and Glenn Anderson responded.

Gretzky gave the Kings an edge heading into the third period with his 25-foot slap shot from the edge of the right circle, which appeared to stun Toronto goaltender Felix Potvin as it beat him on the glove side to make the score 3-2 at 10:20 of the second.

But leave it to the Kings to set the scene for a dramatic finish.

“We always do things the hard way,” Tony Granato said.

Said Mike Donnelly: “We never make it easy. Never.”

Donnelly put the Kings ahead for good after Clark tied the score at 1:25 of the third. Donnelly’s goal came after the Maple Leafs had kept constant pressure on the Kings, holding them to one shot through the first 14 minutes of the third period.

At 16:09, King rookie defenseman Alexei Zhitnik wound up to shoot from the left wing and the puck went off two Toronto defensemen, Bob Rouse and Sylvain Lefebvre and skittered over to Donnelly, who was all alone at the right crease.


Potvin was sliding the other way, and Donnelly shot the puck into an open net. “It hit a stick and a skate,” he said. “I was stuck there with an open net, but I wasn’t taking it for granted. I’ve missed those before.”

Gretzky’s third goal of the night gave the Kings a two-goal lead 37 seconds later on another fluke when his wraparound went off Ellett’s left skate, beating Potvin on the stick side.

Ellett then scored at 18:53.

Said McNall: “I came down to ice level to get a little closer after Wayne made it 4-2. Then they scored right when we got down here. I went in the dressing room--to die in there.”


How the Kings Scored

GOAL NO. 1 Score: Kings, 1-0. Scorer: Wayne Gretzky. Time: 9:48 of the first period. How he scored: Two-on-one shorthanded breakaway. Assists: Marty McSorley and Jari Kurri.

GOAL NO. 2 Score: Kings, 2-0. Scorer: Tomas Sandstrom. Time: 17:30 of the first period. How he scored: Slap shot from the slot. Assists: Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley.

GOAL NO. 3 Score: Kings, 3-2. Scorer: Wayne Gretzky. Time: 10:20 of the second period. How he scored: Slap shot from the right circle. Assists: Tomas Sandstrom, Rob Blake.


GOAL NO. 4 Score: Kings, 4-3. Scorer: Mike Donnelly. Time: 16:09 of the third period. How he scored: Straight on, one-timed a pass from Alexei Zhitnik. Assists: Alexei Zhitnik, Tony Granato.

GOAL NO. 5 Score: Kings, 5-3. Scorer: Wayne Gretzky. Time: 16:46 of the third period. How he scored: Wraparound shot off Toronto’s Dave Ellet’s skate. Assist: Pat Conacher.