No Cure in Sight for Kings : Hockey: Tampa Bay gets its first road victory of the season, 5-4.
Tampa Bay had looked like an ideal opponent for the Kings after their mighty struggle against the Mighty Ducks earlier this week.
After all, the Lightning were a struggling second-year team without a single road win in 10 games and a miserable power play, the league’s worst. It certainly seemed the perfect opportunity for the Kings to settle down and win two consecutive games.
So much for those theories.
The Lightning won their first road game of the season, defeating the Kings, 5-4, on Saturday night before a crowd of 15,091 at the Forum. Tampa Bay’s dreadful power play came to life with three power-play goals on seven opportunities. And it was a power-play goal that gave them the win as Danton Cole scored off a one-timed shot, beating King goaltender Rick Knickle on the stick side at 6:12 of the third period.
The Kings (10-14-2) have now only two of their last 11 games.
“Well, we screwed up,” King Coach Barry Melrose said. “We had total control and we quit playing for 15 minutes and let them take a 4-1 lead. It’s happened at least three times this season and some guys have to start looking at themselves. . . . They don’t want to be criticized, they don’t want to be sat out. They don’t want to be criticized in the paper by you people. But they don’t want to give anything in return.”
As hard as the Kings played in the final minutes, they could not get the bounce or luck they needed. Defenseman Dominic Lavoie grazed the outside of the right post with 1:08 remaining and left wing Luc Robitaille hit the crossbar with about two seconds remaining.
Wayne Gretzky’s frustration showed as he smashed his stick at the end of the game and the broken blade lay on the ice. “We fought back but we let it slip away,” said Gretzky, who went pointless for the sixth time this season. “We have nobody to blame but ourselves.”
King forward Jari Kurri had been the architect behind an earlier comeback as he had a hand in two of the Kings’ three goals, which pulled them to a 4-4 tie after they trailed by three.
On the first goal, Kurri hit Robitaille with a cross-ice pass and Robitaille, in the middle of the left circle, beat Tampa Bay goaltender Pat Jablonski on the glove side at 11:07 of the second period.
It was Robitaille’s 14th goal of the season and it was his ninth in the last six games.
Three minutes later, left wing Mike Donnelly scored on the power play, but it was Tomas Sandstrom who put in the hard work along the right wing. Shawn McEachern won the draw outside the Tampa Bay zone, Sandstrom chased down the loose puck and Donnelly finished it off by jamming the puck between Jablonski’s legs.
In the third period, the Kings came out strongly and Kurri, at the left crease, tied it at 2:57. Seconds earlier, Robitaille had a chance as he took out his man behind the net and took a swipe. Sandstrom picked up the rebound and threw the puck across to Kurri. The Kings almost let it slip away in a 12-second span in the second period as the Lightning scored on consecutive shots to take a 4-1 lead.
Tampa Bay may have entered the game with the league’s worst power play (9.6%) but it scored twice on its first four opportunities.
Among the struggling Kings are forward Shawn McEachern, who has not scored in 17 games. His last goal was on Oct. 20 in Tampa Bay. Tomas Sandstrom has not scored since Nov. 9 in Calgary, a 10-game drought. Sandstrom did have three assists on Saturday, however.