Whether it was two consecutive days of fast-paced, grueling practices or the surprising lineup change by Coach Barry Melrose, his intended message of irritation apparently got through to the Kings.
Certainly, Wayne Gretzky does not need prodding, but he was the primary catalyst with two goals and four assists in the Kings' 10-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Forum, a victory that included seven third-period goals.
Gretzky's linemate Tomas Sandstrom had a career-high six assists, and Jari Kurri had three. Luc Robitaille had three points on one goal and two assists.
But among the Kings' star players was a most unlikely newcomer, defenseman Dominic Lavoie, who got a hat trick in his Los Angeles debut. The 25-year-old has bounced around the minor leagues and played a total of 30 NHL games with three teams--mostly with St. Louis and two games each in Ottawa and Boston last season. In those 30 games, he scored two goals and five assists.
Lavoie surpassed his previous NHL goal output, completing the hat trick with a shot from the right point at 10:22 of the third, making the score 8-2. Red Wing Coach Scotty Bowman then removed starting goaltender Peter Ing. Ing gave up eight goals and faced 40 shots.
It was the 130th hat trick in the Kings' 27-year history, but Lavoie is only the third King defenseman to get one. The last time a King defenseman scored three goals was in 1989, when Steve Duchesne did it against St. Louis. Defenseman Ian Turnbull once scored four goals against Vancouver in the 1981-82 season.
"This is great," said Lavoie, whose slap shot has been timed at 96 m.p.h. "I not only get to play on the power play, I'm playing with the great players in the world. You don't ever expect to score three goals."
Said King Coach Barry Melrose: "His shot always seems to get there. It's a heavy shot. I like having him back there. He just needs a coach who believes in him and to give him a chance. There's hundreds of guys like him in the minors."
Lavoie would not have been in the lineup had Melrose not chosen to bench left wing Mike Donnelly. And Charlie Huddy's sore hand created the need for another defenseman. Donnelly, who has scored 29 goals the last two seasons, fell into Melrose's disfavor with a sub-par effort on Wednesday. But he was not the only struggling forward against the Canucks.
"I couldn't bench them all," Melrose said. "I expect a lot from Mike. He's played so well and so hard for me. He just wasn't there the first game. I could have picked anybody, but I felt he was the worst."
Donnelly had ranked 11th on the NHL's consecutive games played list with 183. He had not sat out a game since Feb. 22, 1991.
With Donnelly benched, the Kings dressed 11 forwards and seven defenseman. Originally, the intention was to have Lavoie mainly play on the power play.
But once he and the Kings got rolling, it did not matter whether the Kings were on the power play or at even strength. They were able to score almost at will.
While Ing looked sharp against the Mighty Ducks on Friday night in the Red Wings' 7-2 victory, he wasn't facing anything close to Gretzky. It was the 92nd time Gretzky has scored five or more points in an NHL game. Something must inspire Gretzky when it comes to the Red Wings. Before this season, he averaged 2.88 points against Detroit, which is his highest average against any NHL teams.
"When you're feeling good, it's amazing what you can do," Gretzky said.
Lavoie scored his first two goals on the power play, using his slap shot to blow the puck past Ing.
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