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Kings Win, No Goals for Gretzky : Pro hockey: Los Angeles star’s two assists help bring 2-1 victory and team a bit closer to final Western playoff berth.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So what if he missed scoring on a breakaway, and later shot wide of an empty net with 12 seconds to play?

Wayne Gretzky isn’t pursuing only Gordie Howe’s all-time goal record of 801. San Jose is in front of him, too, and Gretzky isn’t about to let the Sharks escape.

The record will fall, eventually. But catching the Sharks is Gretzky’s priority, and he helped the Kings take a big step forward with two assists in their 2-1 victory over San Jose on Saturday at the Forum.

Scoring the Kings’ first-period goals were Jari Kurri (30th of the season) at 11:53 and Marty McSorley (sixth) at 19:03.

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Heading into today’s game at San Jose, the Kings (24-37-10) are within one point of the ninth-place Mighty Ducks and five behind the eighth-place Sharks, who hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Gretzky, goal-less for the second consecutive game, has scored once in the last seven. It has turned into a crawl toward Howe’s record, and Gretzky remains at 799 goals, two from tying it and three from breaking it. Saturday, he had five shots on goal.

“It’s frustrating when you lose, but to me if I play well, I don’t even question my play,” Gretzky said. “I never doubt myself if I play well. And as long as I’m getting into the game and getting chances, it’ll happen.

“That’s what makes 802 so special. Every goal is hard.”

If Gretzky’s past means anything, he could score two or three goals today against the Sharks. He often performs better when angered by negative press or an opposing player. There was an incident with Shark defenseman Jeff Norton early in the third period when Gretzky was upset after Norton slashed him. Gretzky yelled at Norton and skated up to him and shoved him with his stick after the whistle.

“He was in front of the net, and I was just playing him like any other guy,” Norton said. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”

Later, Gretzky shocked his teammates as well as the sellout crowd of 16,005 when he skated past the Shark bench and yelled at several players in the final seconds. “He was yapping, but I was yapping back,” said Shark left wing Bob Errey. “So I didn’t hear what he was saying.

Said Gretzky: “It was nothing. Both teams are playing with emotion. We’re all fighting for our lives. Tempers flare. It’s part of the game.”

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The Kings claimed they didn’t hear what he was saying or why he yelled at the Sharks on the bench. “Any team that gets him mad, any time we see him yelling at a player or a ref, Cap (Raeder) and I like that,” King Coach Barry Melrose said.

Said Kurri: “It’s good to see him get involved. You don’t see him react like that many times. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. They were yapping at him. It’s not really a big deal.”

Kurri was more concerned with the way the Kings played in the second period after they had opened with a strong 20 minutes to take a 2-0 lead.

“The second period, I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We seem to stop playing. We think we have enough of a lead. We should realize that. We still can play much better.”

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King Notes

With the trading deadline at noon on Monday, rumors have been flying about almost every King, except Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Saturday, the Kings acquired defenseman Donald Dufresne from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a sixth-round draft choice in 1994. Dufresne, 26, is 6 feet 1, 206 pounds and had eight points and 48 penalty minutes in 51 games this season. He was a minus two on the plus-minus scale. “He’s a big kid and you can never have enough defensemen,” King Coach Barry Melrose said. “It’s just some insurance.” Dufresne is known as a steady, stay-at-home defenseman who doesn’t make many glaring mistakes. “Donald did a good job for us, but we’ve got to start looking ahead,” said Tony Esposito, the Lightning’s director of hockey operations. “We’ve got to start making room for our kids and get them up here. It just so happened Donald was one of the guys who became expendable.” The acquisition also gives the Kings room to move one of their other defensemen, if the right deal should present itself. . . . The Sharks acquired right wing Ulf Dahlen and a future draft choice from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Mike Lalor and Doug Zmolek. Dahlen is expected to play today. . . . The Kings’ scratches were defensemen Doug Houda and Tim Watters and forwards Dave Taylor, Phil Crowe and Dave Thomlinson.


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