Kings Follow Form, Lose to Canucks, 5-2

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The shiny object in the Kings' home Wednesday night at the Forum--the Campbell Conference Trophy--served as a reminder of what was accomplished and what wasn't last season.

Had the Stanley Cup been there instead, the look of the team might be drastically different. Instead, every King veteran from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Taylor has returned for one more run, a season starting with an opening-night 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks before a sellout crowd of 16,005.

What else is new?

There should not be much cause for alarm since the Kings lost to the Canucks seven times last season before beating them in the Smythe Division finals. This time, Vancouver rallied with five consecutive goals and gradually took over the game's pace after the Kings were frustrated by an inability to score on numerous chances.

With the loss of Anatoli Semenov to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the expansion draft, the Canucks needed to find a new set-up guy for right wing Pavel Bure and seemed to find their man in Greg Adams.

Adams, who had one goal and one assist, scored the game-winner at 9:36 of the third period. King goaltender Kelly Hrudey had just made a difficult save on Bure but there was no one near Adams in front, who took a pass from Dave Babych at the left boards. Adams faded to his right and flipped a back-hander over Hrudey.

Bure later made it 4-2 with 1:08 remaining when the Kings pulled Hrudey for an extra attacker. And the Canucks added one more empty-netter when Trevor Linden scored with 9.6 seconds left.

Things looked promising earlier for the Kings when the season got off to an explosive start with Hrudey shutting down Bure on a penalty-shot at 1:12 into the game. It seemed to set the tone for the night for Hrudey as he was sharp from the outset.

Vancouver was awarded the penalty shot when defenseman Alexei Zhitnik pulled Bure down from behind. On the penalty shot, Bure shifted the puck a couple of times and attempted to beat Hrudey between the pads and the King goaltender got his stick on it.

The Kings have now faced 20 penalty shots and allowed six goals in their 27-year history.

Bure, who scored 60 goals last season, seemed to be involved in every key play on Wednesday night. He had two goals and one assist. After Jimmy Carson's power-play goal at 6:52 of the first gave the Kings a 1-0 lead, Bure's failure to tie up center Pat Conacher let the Kings go ahead by two goals.

Conacher certainly did not look like a 34-year-old on the scoring play at 9:47 of the second. The Kings were shorthanded, killing off a Mark Hardy high-sticking penalty. Bure had the puck at the right point, and Conacher tipped it away from Bure and fought like a bulldog to get free.

Bure attempted to wrap up Conacher, then tried to knock him down. Finally Conacher got free at the hash marks between the circles in the Canucks' zone and beat Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean between the pads.

But it took Bure less than a minute later to find some form of redemption when he scored on the power-play at 10:44, converting a rebound off of Adams' initial shot. Hrudey did not have a chance on the goal when he fell as his skates were knocked out from under him by a sliding Rob Blake.

The Canucks tied the score, 2-2, at 1:16 of the third and Hrudey again was victimized by traffic in the crease when King defenseman Tim Watters was trying to tie up Geoff Courtnall. Linden tried a wrap-around and the shot hit Courtnall's skate and skipped up the middle to Cliff Ronning, who lifted it over Hrudey.

King Notes

Left wing Mike Donnelly and center Jimmy Carson finally signed their new contracts, the club announced on Wednesday. Donnelly, who agreed to the deal last week, signed a two-year contract, one year, plus an option. He could between earn more than a total of $1.3 million, depending upon personal bonuses. Last season, he scored a career-best 69 points. Carson, who scored 37 goals and 36 assists last season, agreed in principle to his three-year contract earlier this month at training camp in Blue Jay, Calif., and will make around $3.3 million. His agreement is for two years, plus an option. Others who have agreed to new contracts--but apparently have yet to sign--include Wayne Gretzky, forward Tony Granato and Robb Stauber. . . . In another move, right wing John Druce's assignment to the Kings' minor-league affiliate will be for two weeks of conditioning. Druce, acquired as a free agent from Winnipeg last summer, is recovering from wrist surgery. . . . Defenseman Mark Hardy, 34, appeared in his 900th NHL game. He started his NHL career with the Kings in the 1979-80 season. . . . In the pregame ceremonies, the loudest ovations--in no particular order--were for Coach Barry Melrose, Gretzky and Dave Taylor, who is returning for his 17th NHL season. . . . The Kings' home stand continues with games against Detroit (Saturday), San Jose (Sunday), the New York Islanders (Tuesday), Edmonton (Oct. 14) and Calgary (Oct. 16).

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