Up-and-Down Kings Go Back Up to Win Second Game in Row

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It may be for only two games, but the Kings have suddenly become a team that doesn't fall apart the first time something goes wrong.

On Thursday night, they took an early two-goal lead against the streaking Buffalo Sabres, lost it and then closed strong with three third-period goals for a 6-3 victory before 11,293 at the Forum.

The most impressive thing about the Kings' second consecutive win was that it came against Buffalo, which had lost only once in its previous 10 games; and against goalie Dominik Hasek, who entered the game with the NHL's third-best goals-against percentage.

Center Dimitri Khristich had two goals and an assist and Ian Laperriere scored the game-winning goal and had the game's most impressive individual effort for the Kings, who won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 14 and 17, when they defeated Toronto and Chicago.

King goaltender Stephane Fiset, who defeated Vancouver, 6-2, on Tuesday, had 28 saves and won his seventh game of the season as the Kings improved to 15-23-4.

"I don't think we should make a big deal about getting two wins," said Khristich, who has 11 goals. "We still have half a season left. . . . It just showed us that we can play well if we play together."

The last time the teams met, the Kings also raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. But they were not able to hold on, and the Sabres got physical and scored six consecutive goals to win at Buffalo last month.

That was not the case Thursday night, when the Kings rallied instead of collapsing when Buffalo turned up the pressure.

Khristich, who has six first-period goals, gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 1:51 into the game when, from the slot, he deflected defenseman Jan Vopat's slap shot past Hasek on the Kings' first shot on goal.

Fiset was on top of his game early, stopping one Buffalo shot after another. The Sabres' best early scoring chance came when left wing Randy Burridge was stopped by Fiset from the slot.

Despite being outshot, 9-2, the Kings took a two-goal lead when Laperriere and Kevin Stevens hooked up for a score at 10:47. Laperriere skated with the puck into the Sabres' zone and set up an uncontested goal by Stevens from the slot.

Buffalo's Donald Audette, who had two goals in the Sabre victory over the Kings at Buffalo, gave his team a 2-1 lead when he scored from the slot.

In the second period, the Kings' third score was set up by Vladimir Tsyplakov, who picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and assisted on a goal by former Sabre Philippe Boucher, who back-handed a shot past Hasek for a two-goal lead at 2:25.

With their power-play unit on the ice, the Kings had a couple of chances to stretch that lead, but instead a defensive lapse cost them. Buffalo center Michael Peca was able to skate free down the side boards and assisted on a short-handed goal by Burridge at 13:45.

Things then got interesting when Peca passed to Jason Dawe, who tied the score, 3-3, at 1:22 of the third period. The Sabres then had a 2-1 breakaway but were unable to get a solid shot on goal, and Laperriere picked up the puck off the end boards and skated up ice before connecting on a slap shot from inside the blue line to give the Kings a 4-3 lead at 3:25.

They never looked back.

Vopat, who has played well since returning from back surgery, scored from the right circle to give the Kings their third two-goal lead of the game at 5:39. Then, Khristich deflected a slap shot by Kai Nurminen at 13:56.

"Fiset kept us in it until we got things going," King Coach Larry Robinson said. "Three or four goals were the result of tip-ins and screen shots against a great goalie like Hasek."

For the Record Los Angeles Times Saturday January 11, 1997 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 2 Sports Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction Hockey--Because of an editing error, the statistical category for Buffalo Sabre goaltender Dominik Hasek was incorrect in Friday's editions. Hasek is third in the NHL in save percentage.
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